Rugby union’s pinnacle series for the Wallabies ignites on Saturday against the All Blacks in Auckland. The health crisis has forced a reworking of the Bledisloe Cup schedule so the Wallabies play at Eden Park (August 7 and 14) on back-to-back weekends before a third Test in Perth (August 28). Jim Tucker has a preview.
International Rugby Betting Tips
Australia v New Zealand
Sat, August 7, Eden Park, Auckland, 5.05pm (AEST)
You never want to make it harder than it already is to upset the All Blacks on Kiwi soil but we just did. Losing our No.1 attacker in Marika Koroibete to a one-Test stand-down because he couldn’t go to bed on time is a huge blow. He rattled the French defence time and again in July. The Wallabies haven’t won a Test at Eden Park since 1986 when singer Peter Gabriel was a sex symbol and had Sledgehammer in the charts. He’s now 71 and with less hair than ex-Wallaby Wendell Sailor.
The Wallabies have two new wingers in for this one. The return of Jordan Petaia is always exciting because his footwork, power through contact and X-factor can puncture any defence. He had a poor habit of loose ball carries and wasteful 50-50 passes in Super Rugby AU so he must have found a cure in time for this Test or the All Blacks will feast on the turnovers. There’s more worry over whether Andrew Kellaway can step up as the other winger. He’s experienced, fast and can kick but he’s short and his wing will be the target for high kicks.
The Eden Park hoodoo is a real thing. The All Blacks have won 44 Tests straight at their spiritual home since their last loss there to France in 1994. The Wallabies have lost 20 straight to the All Blacks at Eden Park. Yeek.
You can’t predict a Wallabies’ win but they can get into this Test if the forwards play like they did in the series-decider against the French. That means being precise in winning our ruck ball as well as scrum and lineout possession. On top of that, the Aussies need Darcy Swain to pinch a Kiwi lineout or two and plenty of pests at the breakdown to rattle the All Blacks out of their flow. Slow it down in other words when the All Blacks have the ball. Recalling Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson to the backrow is smart. Valetini’s heavy hitting generates turnovers and Wilson plays without fear against the Kiwis with his ball-running and occasional off-loading.
The All Blacks are potent. Hey, no other team in the world would dare leave Beauden Barrett on the bench as they have to play Damian McKenzie at fullback. Recalled Rieko Ioane will be a major handful on the wing.
The Wallabies did topple the All Blacks 24-22 when the sides last met but that was at friendly Suncorp Stadium. The Wallabies did outplay the Kiwis for a big slab of the opening Test last season when they had to accept a 16-all draw in Wellington. The All Blacks have had a three-Test build-up this time.
Young Wallabies flyhalf Noah Lolesio is playing his first Test on Kiwi soil. That’s a huge step up. It can be a huge step forward in his development if he gets every little thing right. The Wallabies are getting 23.5-points start with most agencies. With wet weather around in Auckland this week, but maybe not at match time, it throws in another variable.
Under 50.5 Total Points
South Africa v British and Irish Lions
Sun, August 8, Cape Town, 2am (AEST)
A huge series decider. The Springboks have lost two of their absolute best to injuries with Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit gone. There is still more power to the Boks and an obsessive will to win. There will be an aerial bombardment of kicks for certain. Lions coach Warren Gatland wants his side to play more rugby but picking the moments will be the key.