Preview: Australia v New Zealand

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 06:16
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It is the third Bledisloe Cup match of 2012 when Australia play New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane - not that the cup is really up for grabs.

It is the third Bledisloe Cup match of 2012 when Australia play New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane - not that the cup is really up for grabs.

New Zealand have grabbed it already and there is only pride - and money - to play for. It is a match that the All Blacks would be expected to win, and yet...

The last time the two teams met at the same venue the Wallabies won, and that was only last year. But personnel have changed.

This year's Wallabies have only three back from last year's starting team - Pat McCabe, who is the only one in the same position, Kurtley Beale who was a fullback last year and Adam Ashley-Cooper who was on the other wing.  

New Zealand have nine back -  Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Daniel Carter, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Samuel Whitelock,   Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. Back or not, the Wallabies look a lot weaker.

Will the match that has no competitive value be played with less enthusiasm? The All Blacks do not know how to play with 'less enthusiasm'. They will be going flat out.

They need no greater motivation than just to play for New Zealand and having Wallabies facing the haka is incentive enough. The Wallabies are so much underdogs and so vilified this year that surely they will want to show some Australian fighting spirit.

It's just hard to see how, man for man, unit for unit, team for team, the Wallabies can possibly beat the All Blacks. They have Tatafu Polota Nau who could well do better than Keven Mealamu, Nathan Sharpe and Adam Ashley-Cooper who could compete with their immediate opponents, and young Michael Hooper who could give ageing Richie McCaw a run for his money. That's more or less where it stops.

The Wallabies will get their fair share of ball. They have matched the All Blacks in the line-outs this year and have not been embarrassed in the scrums. Tackles, too, are likely to be on a par. It's not only competing at tackles that will be crucial. It will be a matter of being there to tackle as the All Blacks weave their magic.

Sadly for the Wallabies their best runner Digby Ioane will not be there while the All Blacks have all manner of runners from Israel Dagg to Kieran Read.

Players to Watch:  

For Australia: Kurtley Beale with so much talent, but so erratic. His body language will give you his evaluation of what he has done. He is the one player in the Wallaby backline that can make a serious attacking difference. He is the one with a creative spark. Ashley-Cooper will be all heart and enthusiasm and the rest are shiny pebbles lined up against sparking diamonds. In the pack Michael Hooper and Tatafu Polota-Nau have clout; the others are ordinary.

For New Zealand: On the other hand you can pick your New Zealander and will want to watch him -certainly the whole of the backline.  Everyone of them is a star on the world stage. Everyone of them can turn a game in a split second. And in the pack there is a comfortable tight five and three star, complementary loose forwards. Watch Kieran Read with half a chance to attack.

Head to Head: The most interesting contest behind the scrum is between Dan Carter with all the skill, vision and instinct that any flyhalf could ever hope for and the erratic genius of Kurtley Beale who can be, if he does not crack up, brilliant. Then there is old buck against new buck - Richie McCaw against Michael Hooper, and the young buck may just surprise.

Recent Results:

2012: New Zealand won 22-0 at Eden Park, Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 27-19 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2011: New Zealand won 20-6 at Eden Park, Auckland
2011: Australia won 25-20 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2011: New Zealand won 30-14 at Eden Park, Auckland
2010: Australia won 26-24 at Hong Kong Stadium
2010: New Zealand won 23-22 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2010: New Zealand won 20-10 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2010: New Zealand won 49-28 at Colonial Stadium, Melbourne
2009: New Zealand won 32-19 at Olympic Stadium, Tokyo
2009: New Zealand won 33-6 at Westpac Trust, Wellington  
2009: New Zealand won 19-18 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2009: New Zealand won 22-16 at Eden Park, Auckland

Predictions: Recent history does not give Australia much of a chance, and recent form does not give Australia much of a chance either. This year New Zealand are certainly the better side. An upset is - mercifully for sport - always possible but we predict a New Zealand victory by more than 20 points. For one thing, Dan Carter is there.


Australia: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 James Slipper, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Drew Mitchell.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.

Date: Saturday, 20 October 2012
Kick-off: 20.00 (10.00 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Expected weather conditions: Clear and hot with a high of 30°C, dropping to 19°C.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)

By Paul Dobson