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Preview: New Zealand v Australia

Fri, 18 Oct 2013 06:28
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What will the margin be in Dunedin?

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New Zealand play Australia in the third Bledisloe Cup match of 2013 in Dunedin on Saturday, not that it will have any bearing on the destination of the huge cup.

New Zealand won both of the first two matches for the Bledisloe and so have won the series and keep the Cup, as they have done since 2003.

But do not be misled - the All Blacks will be going flat out, as they always do.

The All Blacks never take a Test match lightly or for granted in any way.

They never suffer from the malaise of overconfidence.

There is only one way that New Zealanders play for New Zealand - that is to the intense best of their ability. And being the All Blacks there is always some record to set or protect.

Victory in the deep south this Saturday would equal their record of 30 successive victories at home.

The last time they lost at home was only in 2009 - to the Springboks in Hamilton - but such is the proliferation of Tests in these days that this is their 30th home Test since then. It's hard to believe that that will add to All Black motivation.

They will want to wallop the Wallabies, and that's that. It's hard to see the wobbling Wallabies getting even close.

The Wallabies have had a poor run lately and are further weakened by the absence of some star players - James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale,Digby Ioane,  Scott Fardy, James Higginbotham, Christian Leali'ifano, Nick Cummins and Joe Tomane. Peter Betham, who comes into the side, is their 12th new cap this year.

It's hard to see where the Wallabies can beat the All Blacks. Back three? wings? Centres? Loose trio? Locks? Front row? Tight five? scrums? Line-outs? Tackle/rucks?

It may be that their only unit that could really compete would be their halfbacks - Quade Cooper and Will Genia.

Goal-kicking. With Leali'ifano Australia would have had the upper hand in sheer accuracy, but on his day Cruden could certainly match Matt Toomua.

Players to Watch:

For New Zealand: The most watchable for many will  be Ben Smith. He is so skilled, so incisive, so fast, so deceptive and possessed of such vision. He may just be the best back in the world and he is proving his versatility - fullback, either wing and now outside centre while Conrad Smith rests. And then there are Israel Dagg to see if can recapture his former form, powerful Julian Savea, clever Aaron Cruden and hyperactive Aaron Smith. Amongst the forwards there are Kieran Read, one of the world's greats, driven Liam Messam and the effective workhorse Sam Whitelock.

For Australia: The most interesting of the Wallabies are probably Quade Cooper to see if he can let his idiosyncratic best re-emerge and in the hope that hooligans will stop booing a great player, Will Genia if he can get his calm dominance and vision working, Israel Folau if he gets a chance to run, and Michael Hooper who does not give up.

Head to Head: Israel Dagg (New Zealand) versus Israel Folau (Australia). They may be at opposite ends of the field but they have so much talent to use in their teams' causes. Dagg looks the more likely to get involved. Confident Aaron Cruden (New Zealand) versus Quade Cooper (Australia) at a time when Cooper seems to have lost his derring-do. Cruden seems much better equipped to run the game for a team. Aaron Smith (New Zealand) versus Will Genia (Australia) with Smith more likely to be spoonfed by his forwards, but without Genia's range of talents. Genia probably has the better kick from the base, but he has three good men to do the All Blacks' catching - Dagg, much improved Savea and Charles Piutau who catches and counters so well. Then there is the squabble of exuberant youth for the tackle ball - Michael Hooper (Australia) and New Zealand's Sam Cane, Richie McCaw's replacement.

Recent results
2013: New Zealand won 27-16, Wellington
2013: New Zealand won 47-29, Sydney
2012: New Zealand and Australia drew 18-a, Brisbane
2012: New Zealand won 22-0, Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 27-19, Sydney
2011: New Zealand won 20-6, Auckland
2011: Australia won 25-20, Brisbane
2011: New Zealand won 30-14, Auckland
2010: Australia won 26-24, Hong Kong
2010: New Zealand won 23-22, Sydney
2010: New Zealand won 20-10, Christchurch
2010: New Zealand won 49-28, Melbourne

Prediction: This is easy. New Zealand will win, by how much depends on the strength of Wallaby guts, but a big win is not beyond likelihood - not if the B&I Lions can win so well. It may not be a great competition but it could be a most entertaining match.

Teams

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Tom Taylor.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Nic White, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Bernard Foley.

Date: Saturday, October 16
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT; 17.35 AEST)
Expected weather: The weather will have no impact, it is an indoor stadium.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

By Paul Dobson

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