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The Wallabies go head-to-head with the All Blacks tonight in a do-or-die Bledisloe Cup clash at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:45pm (AEDT).
As the competition returns to Australian shores, the Wallabies must win these two home games to regain the Cup for the first time in 18 years.
To make the occasion even more crucial, not only is the Bledisloe on the line, points for the Tri Nations, which replaces the Rugby Championship this year, are also up for grabs.
Injuries to playmakers Matt To’omua and James O’Connor have forced Dave Rennie to select debutants Noah Lolesio and Irae Simone to replace them. The Wallabies’ flyhalf-inside centre combination has gone from having over 100 Test caps to zero.
Simone and Lolesio have spent plenty of time playing together at the Brumbies, where they guided their team to the first-ever Super Rugby AU title.
They will need to be at the top of their game if Australia are to have any chance of keeping the series alive and setting up a Game 4 decider.
There are more changes to the side outside the 10-12 axis, too. Jordan Petaia will start at 13 with Hunter Paisami dropped to the bench and Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Tom Banks at fullback.
In the forwards, prop Allan Alaalatoa has pushed Taniela Tupou out of the starting side, while Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight have been named on the bench for their debuts.
On the other hand, the New Zealanders are without two of their key players, Nepo Laulala and Ardie Savea, who are both on paternity leave. Hoskins Sotutu is set to start his first Test and replace Savea at number eight, while Tyrel Lomax takes Laulala’s spot amongst the substitutes.
Veteran second-rower Sam Whitelock will return to the side after recovering from a concussion, and Karl Tu’inukuafe comes into the starting XV for Joe Moody. On the bench, Reiko Ioane and Ngani Laumape replace Damian McKenzie and Peter Umaga-Jensen respectively, and Dalton Papalii has been named to make his debut.
All eyes will be on young Caleb Clarke who tore Australia’s defence to pieces in the last fixture. The 21-year-old is already being touted as the next Jonah Lomu and will be out to impress in his first All Black game away from home.
However, the Wallabies gifted the young winger too much uncontested ball in Auckland, and are looking to restrict Clarke with a more accurate kick-chase game.
You shouldn’t disregard the potential in the young, inexperienced Wallabies line-up, and playing a home Test for the first time in more than a year will give them a boost. However, the All Blacks are deservedly favourites for this one.
New Zealand by 15.
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Venue: ANZ Stadium
TV: Fox Sports, Channel Ten
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel, 10Play
Referee: Ben O’Keefe
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Nic Berry
TMO: Angus Gardner
Odds: New Zealand $1.25, Australia $4
1 James Slipper, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Matt Philip, 6 Ned Hanigan, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 Harry Wilson, 9 Nic White, 10 Noah Lolesio, 11 Marika Koroibete, 12 Irae Simone, 13 Jordan Petaia, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 15 Dane Haylett-Petty
Bench: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Hunter Paisami
1 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2 Dane Coles, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 6 Shannon Frizell, 7 Sam Cane (c), 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 9 Aaron Smith, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 11 Caleb Clarke, 12 Jack Goodhue, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 14 Jordie Barrett, 15 Beauden Barrett
Bench: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Rieko Ioane