Wallabies Seek Consolation Prize

Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au/Getty Images
Israel Folau posted a hat-trick against Argentina. Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au/Getty Images
Predictably, the Bledisloe Cup remains in New Zealand after the All Blacks won the prestigious trophy for the 11th straight year. But much like Steve Waugh’s dominant Australian Test cricket team developed a nasty habit of dropping dead rubbers, the All Blacks have also come up short of their best in the final Cup clash of the year the past three seasons.

Back in 2010 Australia triumphed 26-24 in Hong Kong, thanks to a clutch conversion from James O’Connor; a player who certainly won’t feature in Saturday’s clash. The next year Australia beat a seemingly disinterested New Zealand 25-20 at Suncorp Stadium, while last year’s turgid encounter finished 18-18 at the same ground after both teams nailed six penalties apiece.

The All Blacks’ 38-27 victory over South Africa at Ellis Park a fortnight back to seal the Rugby Championship was completely draining, coming in what has been described as one of the great rugby Tests of all time. Already centre Conrad Smith has been granted an extended break from international rugby and he’ll miss the upcoming Northern Hemisphere Tests. Star fly half Dan Carter will miss the match with a shoulder injury while prop Owen Franks has been ruled out with a groin problem.

Australia has its injury concerns, too, especially in the outside backs. Waratahs winger Peter Betham is set to make his debut on the wing with arguably eight potential starters in that position missing for various reasons. After a standout effort in the 54-17 thumping of Argentina in the Wallabies’ final Rugby Championship match Joe Tomane leaves a big hole after being ruled out by a hamstring injury. Israel Folau comes in to this game on the back of his hat-trick against the Pumas, but the big bonus from that match was how well the green and gold pack stood up against the Argies.

New Zealand had an imposing record against Australia at Dunedin’s old Test match venue, the House of Pain, otherwise known as Carisbrook. The All Blacks won nine of the ten encounters there, although Australia did come up trumps in the last meeting at the ground in 2001 winning 23-15. The southern city now has the state-of-the-art indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium, and New Zealand beat South Africa 21-11 in the only Test player there to date. The artificial conditions and perfectly dry track should hand some sort of advantage to Australia, if Ewen McKenzie’s men are prepared to play running rugby. Given the success Will Genia and Quade Cooper with flat balls near the defensive line against the Pumas, Wallabies fans will be hoping they can repeat that success in Dunedin.

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