In a few hour the questions we have pondered, the plans we have considered, the options we have discussed, dissected and discussed again; finally we will have the answers.
Or will we?
Bring on kick off of game one of Bledisloe 2016 and the opening of the Rugby Championship!
To add to the spice of the occasion we have espionage! (I know – a plot twist!!) But that’s for after the game. To the on field stuff.
So let cut to the chase here and get in to the weeds. Opta facts tell us the following:
• The Wallabies have not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, with the All Blacks winning or retaining the trophy 13 times since then.
• The All Blacks have lost just one of their last 13 against Australia (W10, D2); their 10 victories in that run have come by an average margin of 16 points.
• New Zealand have lost just one of their last six at ANZ Stadium (W4, D1), whilst Australia have lost seven of their last 10 at the same venue (W2, D1).
• New Zealand have not lost their opening fixture of The Rugby Championship since 2005 (v South Africa), winning nine and drawing one since then; overall the All Blacks have won 17 of their 20 opening matches (D1, L2).
• Australia have lost their last four Tests in a row and have not lost five on the bounce since a run of seven consecutive defeats in 2005; the fifth defeat in that run came against New Zealand.
But that’s all history and it can be changed on a bounce of a ball.
There has been plenty written and discussed about the match up, and I could speculate, but really, what are the key points we will be looking out for tonight as the parts of the game that decided the result.
Scrum: The All Blacks are without Moody and are not starting with Coles, but will it make a difference? Can the Wallabies dominate in the scrum? Even if they do will it really prove to be an advantage if the All Blacks forwards again out work and outperform the Wallabies pack?
Line out: It has been a real issue at times so have we sorted it out or will Retallick and Whitlock be dining out on freebies most of the night?
The Pooper: What impact will it have on the game?
Backline: Will the combination of Foley and Giteau be the ever reliable attacking weapon we saw at the RWC, or the old dog that can’t learn new tricks, or simply past their “best before date”? Will the All Blacks centre pairing work? Will it provide some attack, and will it hold or be a turnstile in defence?
Beauden Barrett: It’s a great show if you haven’t seen it, and we just hope that this episode is one of the more mundane and lacklustre for the Wallabies sake!
The gamble: Playing players out of position. The keyboard critics are at the ready if this one blows up in Cheika’s face.
Really, is this worth answering? This is always a heart v head thing, and as tough as it is to call it, the All Blacks are hard to tip against even if I don’t want to. I think this one will be close.
The All Blacks by 2.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Rob Horne
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Julian Savea
Date: Saturday, August 20
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20:05 (AEST)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Stats by Opta Sports