The All Blacks needed one half of tuning up before running all over the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship opener last week, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that point to a different outcome as New Zealand and Australia meet for a second time, Wellington being the venue this time around.
It’s been almost four years since the two teams played each other at Westpac stadum in Wellington, ending in a 33-6 win for the All Blacks. Australia haven’t been able to finish the year with the Bledisoe cup for over a decade, and haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand for over 12 years.
There’s talent on this Wallabies team, but not enough to break through the disciplines and organized New Zealand defense, with too few players actually playing to their usual level in the previous week, with the only player worth mentioning being Michael Hooper. The rest? Inferior, at every position and phase.
Only two changes, despite everything, for the Wallabies: Scott Fardy replaced the injured Hugh McMeniman (out for six months) in at blindside forward, while Kane Douglas moves into the bench in order to fill Fardy’s place. Quade Cooper? He’ll start the match on the bench, even if Matt Toomua didn’t really light things up for the Wallabies on his debut.
New Zealand have a huge problem at fly-half, as Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett are all injured. This leaves Tom Taylor to start and make his debut for the All Blacks, leaving Colin Slade to come up from the bench. Luckily for Taylor, there’s a lot more talent and experience around him to make sure that even if he does make mistakes, it won’t be so bad.
Ben Smith ran for three tries, while Richie McCaw didn’t look all too rusty. The other Smiths, Conrad and Aaron, had an excellent match as well, while Israel Dagg keeps on putting on amazing performances at full back to compliment the back trio. Changes? Brodie Retallick starts instead of the injured Luke Romano at Lock, while Charles Piutau, Jeremy Thrush, Dane Coles and Wyatt Crockett make it to the bench.
Prediction – Australia always have some good minutes against New Zealand, but never enough. Too much talent difference between the two sides that it always comes out in the end. Maybe if the Wallabies can put the right kind of pressure on the raw Taylor they can get something out of it, but it feels like yet another crushing defeat to their most bitter rivals.