Australia v New Zealand in Wellington
Venue: Westpac Stadium
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Well the Tri Nations title is not at stake in this test match. South Africa has already walked off with that Trophy. That being the case what really is the point of this game? Aaha! Funny old game this. There is always something at stake in this grand game of rugby, especially at the international level. And this game is no exception.
Firstly, there is the wooden spoon. If Australia win, this their 500th test match, they avoid last place in the Tri Nations competition for 2009. That dubious honour will go to..er..New Zealand? Surely not! Unthinkable! Wash your mouth out!
Then there are the coaching jobs. Being a coach at the international level is probably like being on a merry-go-round that could stop and bump you off at any point of the journey. Both coaches have had a rocky season. And one of them has been put on notice by his bosses.
Robbie Deans looks to be the most secure of the two. That 21-6 win over South Africa, a result which propelled Australia to the top of the GWC Rugby Rankings, saw his team dominate up front, an area of weakness in the team prior. That game saw a young team finally come of age. That gives the Aussies the edge. But lets see what might happen if they lose, and more importantly how they lose. The knives that were out among the Aussie media and the fans only an unhappy month ago may only have been partly sheathed and they'll emerge at the slightest stumble.
Is Robbie Deans on the up and up? Image thanks to www.rugby.com.au
Graham Henry and his team are on the back foot. New Zealand CEO Steve Tew has announced that the present All Black coaching team's performance will be under review at the end of this Tri Nation's series. The word is that most New Zealand rugby fans would be happy to see Henry go. With only two years to go until the Rugby World Cup, now, and only now, could changes be made. If the All Blacks lose it will be their third loss at home in a row, a situation that has never happened before. Oh dear! I can feel the pressure way over here in Australia! That would be a black day indeed and Henry and his coaching team will surely be asked to leave.
Is Graham Henry on his way out? Image thanks to www.allblacks.com
Australia has not made any changes to their starting line up that successfully defeated South Africa two weeks ago. New Zealand has made five changes, most of them in the forwards. Enough said.
Last Five Encounters
22.08.2009 New Zealand 19-18 in Sydney (Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations)
18.07.2009 New Zealand 22-16 in Auckland (Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations)
01.11.2008 New Zealand 19-14 in Hong Kong (Bledisloe Cup)
13.09.2008 New Zealand 28-24 in Brisbane (Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations)
12.08.2008 New Zealand 39-10 in Auckland (Bledisloe Cup & Tri Nations)
New Zealand has dominated Australia since July 2008, winning all last five encounters. Is this about to change?
GWC Rugby Rankings: Australia 1st, New Zealand 3rd
Prediction: Australia by 3, and New Zealand heads into gloom, Henry is sacked, New Zealand rebuild in time to take the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Rodney So'oialo, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Hosea Gear.
Head Coach: Graham Henry
15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 George Smith (c), 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Peter Hynes.
Head Coach: Robbie Deans