Flyhalf Kurtley Beale will have to be at his best if the Wallabies are to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
While rain fell throughout last week's match in Sydney, the weather forecast is good for Auckland, so we can expect a much better spectacle.
The dry conditions will suit Beale, who has been selected ahead of Bernard Foley at 10 because of the greater threat he poses with ball in hand.
Beale made 86m from five carries last Saturday despite the wet weather, and was successful with four of his five penalty attempts at goal. However, the one he missed was from an easy position and came just before half-time when the Wallabies were looking for points against 14 men. The 25-year-old also tapped a penalty when his side could have gone for posts and threw a pass that was intercepted by the All Blacks.
Beale has been exposed on defence in the past, but he dropped out of the firing line when New Zealand had set-piece ball, with Matt Toomua standing at 10 and Rob Horne coming off the wing. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens if Beale is forced to make a one-on-one tackle on someone like Julian Savea on Saturday.
The Wallabies had a golden opportunity to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 10 Tests in Sydney last week. The hosts played against 14 men for 20 minutes and dominated the second half, yet were unable to land the killer blow. Still, the 12-12 draw would have given Ewen McKenzie's men some satisfaction, as it showed the progress they have made since the last Rugby Championship and prevented their rivals from claiming a record 18th consecutive Test win.
What the draw means, though, is that the Wallabies can't afford to lose in Auckland if they are to lift the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002. If Australia do win at Eden Park, they will become the first team to do so since France shocked the All Blacks 23-20 in 1994. Since then, the All Blacks have drawn one match and won 32 in a row. They were, however, given a big fright by France in the 2011 World Cup final and by an understrength England this June, so it's certainly not an impossible task for the Wallabies.
While Australia have named an unchanged match 23 for Saturday's game, the All Blacks have been forced to make two injury-enforced changes with Ryan Crotty coming in for Ma'a Nonu at inside centre and Liam Messam replacing Jerome Kaino at blindside flank. New Zealand have, however, been boosted by the return of Conrad Smith, who missed the Sydney Test due to the birth of his first child.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: All Blacks 120, Wallabies 47, Draws 6
In New Zealand: All Blacks 59, Wallabies 17, Draws 1
At Eden Park: All Blacks 22, Wallabies 5
BEALE'S STATS THAT MATTER
4 – The number of penalty goals he kicked against the All Blacks in Sydney last Saturday, from five attempts
5 – The number of times he carried the ball
86 – The number of running metres he made
1 – The number of times he kicked from hand
1 – The number of tackles he missed
3 – The number of handling errors he made
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images