The All Blacks will look to secure a 3-0 series sweep against the Wallabies when they meet in the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test in Japan on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
After securing the coveted cup for a 16th consecutive year in August, the third Test of the series will be a dead-rubber. But New Zealand will want to make amends in this fixture after they lost to the same opposition the last time they met on Asian soil (in Hong Kong in 2010).
The Wallabies have had a dreadful time of late, though, winning just two of their Rugby Championship matches to finish third on the log. That means there is added pressure on under-fire coach Michael Cheika, who managed to survive the chop despite his team’s rapid decline.
Cheika and captain Michael Hooper have continually stated that the team’s objective is to play ‘good footy’, but that goal has come at the expense of positive results. At this stage of the four-year World Cup cycle, the Wallabies need more than anything to beat the All Blacks, even if the result can only serve as a morale-booster before their European end-of-year tour.
Despite suffering one defeat against the Springboks this year, New Zealand have continued their dominance across the board in the lead-up to next year’s World Cup and a win in Yokohama will be another step in the right direction for Steve Hansen’s men. They’ll also want to end their preparation for their four November Tests on a high against Australia.
There are a couple of changes to the All Blacks side from the one that played against the Boks in Pretoria. Damian McKenzie slots in at fullback, with Ben Smith shifting to wing in place of Waisake Naholo, while TJ Perenara starts at scrumhalf.
Other swaps see loose forwards Ardie Savea and Liam Squire and loosehead prop Joe Moody fast-tracked into the run-on XV.
For Australia, Israel Folau has moved to outside centre in the injury-enforced absence of Reece Hodge. This opens the door for Sefa Naivalu to start on the right wing. In the pack, lock Rob Simmons and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa are the new inclusions.
The influential Beauden Barrett will once again be the one to watch. He dismantled the Wallabies with a dazzling four-try performance in their previous match and the Aussies will certainly keep a closer eye on him to avoid a similar humiliation.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Wallabies – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigani, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Izack Rodda , 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Faingaa, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Tom Banks.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images