Ahead of the Bledisloe Cup 2023 Live free online streaming opener between Australia and New Zealand, we pick out five storylines to follow in the Rugby Championship meeting.
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White hot All Blacks vs Wallabies set to cut loose in Bledisloe I
The All Blacks’ performance against the Springboks in Auckland, especially in the opening quarter, was something to behold as they cut loose and put on a clinic in Round Two. Ian Foster’s side played at such a speed and with power and ferocity in their execution and game-plan that South Africa were blown off their feet.
It’s hard to envisage a significant enough drop-off that would allow the Wallabies a route into possibly snatching an unlikely victory, not least because the hosts looked well behind the Springboks before going down on home soil to Los Pumas last time out. Indeed, their toughest test arrives on Saturday for Wallabies fans.
New Zealand selection in key positions such as the half-backs does not sway our prediction as the depth they boast right now is in a different league to their trans-Tasman rivals, with the Melbourne Cricket Ground likely to see the All Blacks replicate the Bok showing, which would keep the Bledisloe Cup in their hands.
Is Eddie Jones Australia’s Bledisloe Cup lucky charm All Blacks vs Wallabies?
As one might fathom from the above, we don’t believe that is the case, for this year at least. Indeed, there’s a great amount of work to be done before the World Cup as Jones probably wasn’t expecting such a lack of bounce from his side after he took over from Dave Rennie, whose 38 percent win record was widely reported.
Some are now saying that number wasn’t actually overly disastrous, this after Jones has opened up with two defeats out of two, with the All Blacks (twice) next up on their schedule. After that the Wallabies face France on Sunday, August 27 so it could be zero from five for the head coach moving into the global tournament.
But, and whisper it quietly, wouldn’t it be just Eddie Jones to stun the All Blacks and relish the post-match thereafter. Stranger things have happened in sport.
Shannon Frizell to finally lock down blindside spot All Blacks vs Wallabies
Alongside Will Jordan, Frizell was one of the standout performers against South Africa as the pair were electric early on, proving their worth in the black jersey.
So much has been said and written about New Zealand’s inability to find a replacement for the legendary Jerome Kaino, but those days seem to be over as Frizell looks primed for a long stint in the six jersey. A player with speed, skill, power and athleticism, the Highlander could be one of the stars of the Rugby World Cup.
Another strong showing this weekend in Melbourne would further add to his credit in the bank with Foster. Frizell’s impressive form offers the All Blacks greater depth, not just at blindside but also at lock as Scott Barrett can subsequently feature more regularly in his strongest position alongside two second-row greats.
About “All Blacks vs Wallabies” Changing of the guard at number 10 for Wallabies
Success stories in this truncated Rugby Championship have been few and far between for Australia, but Carter Gordon has certainly turned a few heads in games.
The Rebels fly-half came off the bench to cross the whitewash against South Africa in Round One and followed that up with a solid showing against Argentina at centre, this after the early departure of Len Ikitau. Gordon has shown no nerves and has certainly backed up his Super Rugby Pacific form at Test level.
It is being reported that his chance has come at number 10 as he swaps bench duty for a start. Can he drag this Wallabies outfit to greater heights? That will be his goal as he directs an exciting predicted backline, with his partnership alongside Tate McDermott very different to the Nic White-Quade Cooper axis.
Time is running out for several players in gold or black to cement their spot at the Rugby World Cup, with this weekend the ideal platform to rubberstamp tickets.
While for the All Blacks it’s only a couple of positions one feels remain up for grabs, the Wallabies’ door is thrown wide open because of their disappointing results.
All Blacks v Wallabies Bledisloe Cup in 2023: Why NZ can’t afford to lose in Melbourne – Gregor Paul
Rugby Championship: All Blacks v Wallabies. Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. Kickoff: Saturday, 9.45pm. Live coverage: Stuff and Sky Sport
In-form playmaker Carter Gordon could link with Tate McDermott in a new Wallabies halves pairing to face the All Blacks, while Jordan Petaia is eyeing another positional switch in his injury return.
Bulk changes are tipped for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup MCG opener against a red-hot New Zealand after an 0-2 start since Eddie Jones’ sudden second-coming as coach this year.
It’s the Wallabies’ third-last test – and last on home soil – before their World Cup opener in France, against Georgia on September 10.
But probing Queensland Reds No.9 McDermott and Melbourne Rebels five-eighth Gordon, who admirably played a bulk of the last test against Argentina in the centres as injury cover, shape as Australia’s fresh playmaking partnership.
Outside centre Len Ikitau’s shoulder injury has opened the door for more changes, with Petaia in line for a shock return to the position he once owned before moving to the wing and then fullback.
If selected in the No.13, Petaia would partner Samu Kerevi in the midfield – as he did while still a teenager at the 2019 World Cup – although Izaia Perese is another option in the centres or flank.
Fit-again Andrew Kellaway looms as the new fullback after Tom Wright was dropped from the squad, while Taniela Tupou is back in the fray and Angus Bell is also pushing for a start to shake up the front row.
The Wallabies need victory at the MCG and also in Dunedin next month to win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
“It’s massive; we’ve marked this game since our camp in April,” winger Suliasi Vunivalu told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“We want to win this game; it’s a big game in a big stadium and we’re all looking forward to it.”
Vunivalu wasn’t retained on the wing against Argentina following a rough night in his first test start against South Africa.
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“It was a tough game in South Africa,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of the coaches’ support; they’ve been working with me and … I’ll do my bit and hopefully that gets me selected.
He said his focus was on “being busy” and drew comparisons between Jones and former NRL coach at Melbourne Craig Bellamy.
“He’s a funny fella … they have a bit of similarities, but not with (using) the ‘f ‘ word every second word from Craig, which is good,” he laughed.
Mark Nawaqanitawase excelled in Vunivalu’s place against Los Pumas in a sublime attempt to lock up his spot alongside fellow winger Marika Koroibete.
“It puts pressure on coaches, it’s good for all of the outside backs,” Vunivalu said of the competition for spots.
“I can only control myself in training and I’ll let the coach do his bit.
Hodge and fullback Tom Wright from his 34-man squad for back-to-back Tests against the All Blacks following a winless start to the Rugby Championship.
Australia were thrashed 43-12 by an understrength South Africa in Pretoria then suffered a last-gasp 34-31 defeat to Argentina in Sydney last weekend to heap pressure on Jones early in his second stint coaching the Wallabies.
Andrew Kellaway and fellow outside back Jordan Petaia have returned to the squad from injury for the Rugby Championship clash in Melbourne on 29 July, which also doubles as the first of the teams’ annual Bledisloe Cup series.
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The second Bledisloe Test is in Dunedin on 5 August.
Veteran flanker and co-captain Michael Hooper was named as the sole player in a “rehab group” outside the squad of 34 named on Thursday after missing the Pumas game with a calf injury.
Forwards Matt Gibbon and Zane Nonggorr have been dropped.
“We’re very disappointed with the results during stage one of our campaign,” Jones said. “We need to find more in stage two and Melbourne will be a ground where we will find our best.”