All Blacks duo Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga are looking to gel better after retaining their places in the starting lineup to face the Wallabies on Saturday.
Barrett and Mo’unga started as a pair at fullback and flyhalf, respectively, for the first time in the draw with the Springboks in Wellington.
While the All Blacks put in an error-strewn performance, especially in the first half, Barrett set up the hosts’ only try of the match and combined well with Mo’unga to increase the tempo in the second half.
The two will once again form a combination in New Zealand’s final Rugby Championship match in Perth – the first of two Bledisloe Cup matches – where they are under threat to retain their title.
Speaking to the media in New Zealand, Barrett admitted both he and Mo’unga got in each other’s way against the Boks and could put in an improved performance against the Wallabies.
‘I think we’ve learned a lot from having one game under our belts,’ Barrett told the New Zealand Herald. ‘At times we were perhaps in each other’s pockets. Tactically and structurally, if we can be aligned, it will work best for the team and we should see some good rewards from that.
‘Richie is very calm when he speaks,’ Barrett added. ‘Playing alongside him, there’s a great sense of calmness and that’s a quality of his that rubs off on the boys in those tough moments when you just need to steady the ship and keep things simple.’
The All Blacks currently sit second on the Rugby Championship table, one point below the Springboks. They can retain their trophy should they win in Perth and the Springboks come away with nothing when they face Argentina later in the day.
Wallabies – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks.
All Blacks – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 George Bridge.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images