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Preview: Australia v New Zealand

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 06:49
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All Blacks will be missing key players
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The Wallabies will be looking to put a decade of Bledisloe Cup pain behind them when they face the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

It will be the start of a new era for the hosts in Ewen McKenzie's first game as coach, and they will be hoping to catch their old rivals off guard in the first match of the Rugby Championship this year.

The All Blacks will be missing key players in the injured pair of Dan Carter and Liam Messam, whilst there will also be question marks over skipper Richie McCaw who recently returned from a six month break from the game.

McKenzie gets his chance after replacing Robbie Deans, who won only three of his 18 Tests against New Zealand and whose reign ended after the British and Irish Lions hammered the Wallabies 41-16 last month to take the three-match series.

He is promising a fresh coaching approach and has opted for uncapped Matt Toomua as his playmaker instead of Quade Cooper, with whom he formed a close coach-player relationship during his four years at the Reds.

"Never make assumptions," McKenzie said.

"When I was coaching Quade at the Reds I only had Quade at the Reds. None of this says Quade has done anything wrong. Quade is going quite well. In the end we drilled down to what we actually need and we favoured Matt over Quade.

"As we developed how we wanted to play, it became more and more obvious it was going to be a better way to start the game," he added.

If Toomua can spark the Wallabies' backline then the plan is for the exciting Israel Folau to get more of the action and put the All Blacks' defence under pressure.

Folau was devastating at times on the wing against the Lions, most notably in his sensational two-try Test debut in Brisbane, but the Wallabies admit they underutilised him in that series defeat.

"He's a guy you want to get the ball because he makes things happen," skipper James Horwill said. "He's got free rein to make sure he gets the ball as much as he wants.

"He understands that and he's a guy who makes defences worry."

The All Blacks beat the Wallabies in Sydney last year, but the last time to the two sides met the match ended in a 18-18 draw in Brisbane so they will be keen to assert their dominance.

Coach Steve Hansen's team beat France 3-0 in their June Test series, and despite missing a few influential players they will still head into this match full of confidence even though they are playing away from home.

Another intersting aspect of the game will be the new scrum engagement laws. The All Blacks have enjoyed dominance over the Wallabies in this area for some time but it is likely to be about which team adapts best on the day.

Players to watch:

For Australia
: All eyes will be on debutant flyhalf Matt Toomua, although Quade Cooper is lurking on the bench and could have a big influence when the game opens up in the second half. Up front experienced tight forwards James Horwill and Stephen Moore will look to set the tone whilst openside Michael Hooper's influence at the breakdown could be key. Out wide Israel Folau will compete in the air and fullback Jesse Mogg's boot will be vital to his team dominating territorially.

For New Zealand: The back three of Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea can all be devastating in space, and the centre pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith will want to make their experience count outside Aaron Cruden. It will be interesting to see how Steven Luatua fares at Test level and in the front row experienced prop Tony Woodcock will have to adapt quickly to the new scrum laws.

Head to head: Flyhalves Aaron Cruden and Matt Toomua squared off a couple of weeks ago in the Super Rugby Final, and it will be interesting to see how that battle plays out. The Wallabies are sure to test Julian Savea in the air with Israel Folau up against him and the midfield tussle between Ma'a Nonu and Christian Lealiifano should also be intense. In the front row James Slipper should have a tough time up against Owen Franks and the line-out duel between James Horwill and Sam Whitelock will also be vital. Richie McCaw will be tested on his return to the Test arena by the livewire Michael Hooper and at the back of the scrum both Kieran Read and Ben Mowen will try to get their team over the advantage line.

Recent results:
2012: Drew 18-18 in Brisbane
2012: New Zealand won 22-0 in Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 27-19 in Sydney
2011: New Zealand won 20-6 in Auckland
2011: Australia won 25-20 in Brisbane
2011: New Zealand won 30-14 in Auckland
2010: Australia won 26-24 in Hong Kong
2010: New Zealand won 23-22 in Sydney
2010: New Zealand won 20-10 in Christchurch
2010: New Zealand won 49-28 in Melbourne

Prediction: The Wallabies will be fired up to start the Ewen McKenzie era with a bang, but despite missing Dan Carter and Liam Messam we believe the All Blacks will still have too much class so we are backing New Zealand to win by a few points.

Teams:

Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.

Date: Saturday, August 17
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST (22.05 NZ time; 10.05 GMT)
Predicted weather: Partly cloudy, high of 25 low of 8, 20 kph wind
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

AFP and rugby365

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