The Wallabies will attempt to alleviate a dismal Super Rugby campaign for Australian fans when they host the world champion All Blacks in Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener.
The trans-Tasman rivals have met 155 times, with New Zealand winning 106 Tests to Australia’s 42 and seven games drawn. In Australia, the All Blacks lead the tally 48-25-6, and they hold a 4-2-1 advantage at ANZ Stadium.
The Wallabies prevailed 27-19 at the ground last year, before the All Blacks turned the tables 41-13 at Eden Park a week later and 34-17 in the World Cup final at Twickenham.
Australia suffered a historic 3-0 series defeat to England on home soil in June, with the tourists prevailing 39-28, 23-7 and 44-40.
New Zealand downed Wales 3-0 in their home series in June, struggling to put away the underdogs in 39-21 and 36-22 wins in the first two Tests, before powering to a 46-6 win in the third clash.
Dan Carter was the All Blacks’ chief destroyer in the World Cup final, and heir apparent No.10 Beauden Barrett needs to impart the same influence – which he’ll find more difficult than he did when leading the Hurricanes to Super Rugby glory. Bernard Foley will be looking to put a subpar Super Rugby season behind him and rediscover his World Cup form.
Australia have won just one of their last 13 Tests against New Zealand. The last two matches between the teams at ANZ Stadium have featured a draw and a win to the Wallabies. Five of the seven Bledisloe Tests at ANZ Stadium have been decided by eight points or less.
Australia has lost their last four Tests; New Zealand have lost just twice in their last 43 Tests. Three of the All Blacks’ last four wins over the Wallabies were by 13+ margins.
The influx of experienced Europe-based stars should ensure significant improvement on the Wallabies’ June form, while the early exit of the Australian Super Rugby teams has provided them with more time in camp to prepare for this blockbuster. The return of Pocock from injury is vital, while Giteau, Genia and Ashley-Cooper will take the heat off linchpins Foley, Folau and Hooper.
The All Blacks could be vulnerable here, with only seven starters from the World Cup final backing up; the Wallabies could line up the same as they did at Twickenham 1-15. New Zealand have also found their recent trips to ANZ Stadium tricky, with the slippery conditions ill-suited to their fast-paced game-plan.
Australia will need a momentous defensive effort to knock of the world champs, but while New Zealand’s favouritism is unsurprising, the Wallabies won’t get an opportunity to catch the ABs any weaker. Stick to the 1-12 margins on a greasy night, and lean to the hosts with the start.