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The Wallabies and All Blacks will kick off the 2021 Bledisloe Cup with an enthralling clash at Eden Park. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog starting from 5:05pm (AEST).
It’s a curious time in Wallabies rugby right now. The series win over France has given many a feeling of excitement and expectation for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup series and why not? A hard-fought series over France with that incredible 14-man victory in the decider would give any team a feeling that they are building momentum.
There’s also been plenty of positive talk about an improved Michael Hooper, who had a great series as both player and leader, and this week has seen many applaud Dave Rennie’s dropping of Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili as he looks to set the tone for the culture he’s building.
But dig under those positive aspects and there’s a lot to be worried about for the Wallabies faithful as they take on the All Blacks.
Rennie has made few changes from the side that performed so valiantly in Game 3 against the French. Jordan Petaia will play on one wing while Andrew Kellaway will make his first start on the other. The rest of the back line remains unchanged with many pointing out the lack of experience – Tom Banks at full-back has 14 of the 45 caps that the entire three quarters have between them. But hey – it’s a rebuilding period right?
Up front, Hooper will be joined by Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson in the back row while Darcy Swain and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will start again in the second row.
Meanwhile, Ian Foster has made five changes with his All Black side looking full of experience both on and off the bench. Up front, Brodie Retallick will join up with Sam Whitelock and the back row shake-up will see Akira Ioane and Dalton Papalii join Ardie Savea.
The All Blacks had a late change on Saturday with Scott Barrett out because of illness. He was replaced on the bench by Patrick Tuipulotu.
Aaron Smith will become the first All Blacks halfback to play 100 Tests and will partner up with Richie Mo’unga. With the likes of Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece and Damian McKenzie in the back three, the Wallabies will need to make sure their kicking is perfect all night long.
A scary aspect of the All Blacks lineup is that all three Barrett brothers have been unable to make the run on side but will be desperate to make an impact off the bench.
Can the Wallabies win this one? Theoretically, yes they can. But they will have to have the perfect game from every single one of their team and hope that the All Blacks have an off night. The gap in talent is just too big at the moment.
The Wallabies should be very proud of their recent wins over the French, but there is a big difference between squeezing past an understrength French side in your own backyard and trying to overcome this All Blacks team in Eden Park.
Let’s hope that the Wallabies bring the same heart and passion as they showed in Game 3 from the French series but they will need to play 80 minutes of error-free rugby too and that just isn’t going to happen against this Kiwi side.
All Blacks by 10.
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEST)
Live stream: Stan Sport
Betting: New Zealand $1.05, Australia $9.40 (odds via PlayUp)
Referee: Paul Williams
1. James Slipper, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. 6. Rob Valetini. 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Andrew Kellaway, 12. Hunter Paisami, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Jordan Petaia, 15. Tom Banks
Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Fraser McReight, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Matt To’omua, 23. Reece Hodge
1. George Bower, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Samuel Whitelock (c), 6. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii, 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. David Havili, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Sevu Reece, 15. Damian McKenzie
Replacements: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18. Angus Ta’avao, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20. Luke Jacobson, 21. Brad Weber, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Jordie Barrett