Australia and New Zealand clash for the fourth and final time in this year’s Bledisloe Cup series in Brisbane on Saturday with the hosts seeking to restore some pride.
The Wallabies are still looking for their first victory this year over their Antipodean rivals, having drawn one and lost the last two of the three contests in October.
Last week in Sydney, Australia suffered their heaviest defeat to the All Blacks, going down 43-5, and it is no surprise they are
5/1 underdogs despite having home advantage.
Perhaps the biggest concern for head coach Dave Rennie comes from only managing a total of 28 points against the All Blacks in their three matches this year.
New Zealand have run in at least four tries in seven of their last eight meetings with Australia – the exception was the 16-16 draw in Wellington in the first match of this year’s series when the All Blacks looked rusty and made uncharacteristic errors.
The All Blacks always look to score tries and although Australia found a way to stop them in Wellington, it looks likely they will need to conjure up scores of their own if they are to have a chance in this one.
New Zealand Full of Points
New Zealand have covered big handicaps in the last two matches and are
25/28 to cover a slightly lower line of -16.5 for this latest meeting in Brisbane.
If there’s one positive for the Wallabies it’s their record at the Suncorp Stadium – of the six matches against New Zealand there this century, they have won two and drawn one, while their three defeats have been by four points (twice) and by a single point in their most recent loss in 2014.
An All Black win by one to 12 points is a
21/10 shot but this team have shown they are no respecters of history and dry, summery conditions should see them at their best.
Ioane Handed All Black Debut
Kiwi rugby fans are fond of saying there are no weak All Blacks teams – only good ones and great ones. So when head coach Ian Foster announced early in the week he was going to ring the changes in his selection, you knew that there was still going to be a pretty good team running out on the pitch come Saturday.
There is only one new cap in the starting 15 in flanker Akira Ioane, plus three more on the bench, but the rest of the line-up is pretty familiar. For example, scrum-half TJ Perenara and hooker Codie Taylor are given starts rather than lining up among the replacements but both are Test players in their own rights who just happen to have an even more exceptional performer ahead of them.
Fly-half Richie Mo’unga is given the night off, but another world-class talent Beauden Barrett simply steps up from full-back into the more familiar number ten role, and the backline is packed with pace and proven scoring power. Beauden Barrett is
7/5 to score a try at anytime.
Australia can’t boast such depth and are hardest hit at fly-half, where James O’Connor and Matt Toomua are still injured. Last week Wallaby coachRennie gave a debut to Noah Lolesio, who struggled to make a mark.
This time Rennie has gone for Reece Hodge in the crucial position. Hodge does at least have 42 caps to his name but all bar one in the centre or on the wing – his only appearance at fly-half was against Japan three years ago.
Foster’s Men a Cut Above
It comes down to the strength of the two teams and even a much-changed New Zealand line-up looks a cut above a depleted Wallabies side.
The All Blacks are sure to use their whole bench and try a few things out given the series is already in the bag but it’s hard to see Australia making enough of an impact on the scoreboard to stop them covering the handicap for a third game. All of New Zealand’s last six victories over Australia have been by 17 points or more.