The Bledisloe series heads back to Australia after two thrilling games in New Zealand, with the Wallabies looking for a treat not trick as they face the All Blacks on Halloween.
The mission is simple for the Wallabies: if they win, it all comes down to the final test match in Brisbane on November 7. If the result is the same as game one or two, the Cup stays in New Zealand
The first test under Dave Rennie was an incredible performance for the Wallabies as they took it to the All Blacks in Wellington. In the end, it would come down to a penalty goal from Reece Hodge, which shaved the upright, ensuring that the game finished as a 16-all draw.
The second test was what we had come to expect from the All Blacks, who took advantage of a wasteful Wallabies outfit as they cruised to a 27-7 win in their spiritual home of Eden Park. Caleb Clarke would prove to be the difference-maker on his run-on debut, running for a game-high 123 metres on eight carries, including three clean breaks and 14 tackle busts.
The Wallabies have reacted to the disappointing performance at Eden Park with a number of changes, the main one being at flyhalf with Noah Lolesio making his debut in place of an injured James O’Connor. He partners up with Brumbies teammate Irae Simone, who slots into inside centre with Matt Toomua ruled out for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, tight-head prop Allan Alaalatoa rotates with Taniela Tupou and Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Tom Banks at fullback whilst Reds pair Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight come onto the bench for Jake Gordon and Liam Wright
For the All Blacks, Hoskins Sotutu gets his first start at No.8 with Ardie Savea still in NZ on paternity leave. Karl Tu’inukuafe comes in at loosehead prop for Joe Moody, who is still recovering after a head knock, whilst veteran Sam Whitelock returns at starting lock for the ANZ Stadium clash.
Along with this, Dalton Papalii and Ngani Laumape also make their first appearances of 2020 on the bench.
Irae Simone v Jack Goodhue
Irae Simone has arguably been one of the Brumbies best over the past 18-24 months, establishing himself as the form inside centre in the country. He has been handed one of the toughest assignments in World Rugby, matched up to face Crusaders gun Jack Goodhue.
Whilst his mullet may be long gone, Goodhue is one of the premier midfielders/centres in the world and I thought his defensive effort in shutting down the Wallabies backline went un-noticed during the last test. The Wallabies looked lost when Toomua fell to the groin sniper in the crowds and Simone needs to assert himself with a less than experience centre partner in Petaia outside of him if they want to cause the upset.
Allan Alaalatoa v Karl Tu’inukuafe
I know that I’m comparing a loose and a tight head and this will anger the Scrum gods but I feel like both props will be crucial towards deciding the contest in the forwards. Alaalatoa comes in for his first start of the year with direct instructions to ‘empty the tank’ from Dave Rennie with Tupou expected to come on in the second half. Meanwhile, the moustache mountain that is Tu’inukuafe comes in for just his seventh career start for experience prop Joe Moody, who seems to set to tone for the AB’s at scrum time.
With Moody out and Owen Franks long gone, it seemingly represents a new age for the All Blacks at scrum time, something that the Wallabies need to take advantage of. Alaalatoa is world-class when it comes down to set pieces and he needs to establish dominance early on in what is expected to be wet conditions in Sydney.
Keys to victory
1. Do not kick the ball in space to:
a. anyone in jersey 11 for the All Blacks
b. any Blues winger
c. anyone in the bloodline of former All Black Eroni Clarke
d. anyone born on 29 March 1999
I think I’ve made it clear, DO NOT KICK THE BALL TO CALEB CLARKE IN SPACE. The Wallabies went way too deep with their kicks in comparison to game one, allowing Clarke to just steamroll them. When you have a fullback lining up on the other wing, the majority of in-play kicks need to go to Jordie’s side and they need to force the All Blacks to find ways to get him into the game. If not, follow a similar pattern to what they did to Bridge and give zero time or space.
2. Tighten up skills
Sounds simple enough but the Wallabies were far too wasteful in the second test match. They gave up rugby’s version of a 40/20: 40 missed tackles and 20 turnovers, which is at Alcatraz/Azkaban levels of crimes to commit against the All Blacks. This will be harder to achieve in wet, greasy conditions in Sydney but we saw how effective the Wallabies could be when they do so.
3. Do not let the All Blacks dominate the ruck
This has been a theme of both games, with the Wallabies caught in situations with little support and ruck presence on the AB’s line, causing a turnover. They need the forwards to set a strong platform and effectively remove any counter-rucking attempts to allow continual phases whilst we’re in attack to build pressure and take advantage of territory
4. Bring back the line-speed
An under-rated aspect of the game one performance, the Wallabies gave the likes of Goodhue and Mo’ounga next to no time to make a decision, forcing a number of errors. Simone especially needs to put pressure on the ball in order to disrupt the backline in the slippy conditions.
1. Put Noah Lolesio under pressure
Noah Lolesio enters as an x-factor heading into his first official test match (sitting on the bench does not count in my eyes). He’s shown at the Super Rugby level that he has what it takes to succeed so the All Blacks must not allow him to settle. I expect them to give him a nice early present in the form of a steam-rolling Caleb Clarke as they look to batter the debutant.
2. Find ways to use Caleb Clarke off the ball
Caleb Clarke bullied the Wallabies in the last test match, producing one of the greatest run-on debuts in recent memory. In the words of Michael Jordan, the Wallabies have seemed to take this personally, with Filipo Daugunu essentially saying that there is a target on his back. With this in mind, the All Blacks need to use him more a decoy for set-pieces in the hopes that the Wallabies back get overzealous, allowing the likes of Ioane and Barrett squared to find space.
3. Disrupt the lineout
Name a better combo: Australian teams and struggling to hit their targets at the lineout. This has seemed to be a probably across both Super Rugby and the Bledisloe, with the Wallabies reacting last week with the selection of Brandon Pangea-Amosa. Whilst there was a slight improvement, the All Blacks need to maintain their pressure in the wet and wild conditions, with the inclusion of Sam Whitelock coming as a major boost.
4. Run the offence through Beauden Barrett
I know what I said about Clarke earlier, but BB is one of the most under-appreciated players in that All Blacks set-up. He was electric in the second test match and should be back to full fitness after the extended rest in between test matches. With the attention going to Clarke, the Wallabies need to wary of his all-round brilliance and the All Blacks need to set up plays similar to their first try in order to break the Aussies open.
I’d loved to say that the Wallabies will bounce back and even the series up. I just can’t after seeing the performance from two weeks ago. What we see was that there is still a difference in quality between the two sides best and worst and I think NZ will be too good.
Match Prediction: All Blacks by 12
Bold Prediction: No tries for Caleb Clarke
Wallabies (1-15): James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Marika Koroibete, Irae Simone, Jordan Petaia, Filipo Daugunu, Dane Haylett-Petty
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Fraser McReight, Tate McDermott, Reece Hodge, Hunter Paisami
All Blacks (1-15): Karl Tu’inukuafe, Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Caleb Clarke, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman, Tyrel Lomax, Scott Barrett, Dalton Papalii, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, Rieko Ioane.
Date: Saturday October 31
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 7:30 pm AEDT (7:15pm local time)
Where to Watch: Fox Sports 3 (Channel 503) and Channel 10 (Free To Air)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Angus Gardner (Australia)