Preview: Tri-Nations Game 1 – All Blacks v Wallabies, 18-07-09

July 15, 2009

Team lists:

All Blacks

15. Mils Muliaina
14. Cory Jane
13. Conrad Smith
12. Ma’a Nonu
11. Sitiveni Sivivatu
10. Stephen Donald
9. Jimmy Cowan

8. Rodney So’oialo
7. Richie McCaw (capt)
6. Jerome Kaino
5. Isaac Ross
4. Brad Thorn
3. Neemia Tialata
2. Andrew Hore
1. Tony Woodcock

16. Keven Mealamu
17. Owen Franks
18. Jason Eaton
19. Kieran Read
20. Piri Weepu
21. Luke McAlister
22. Joe Rokocoko

Wallabies

15. Adam Ashley-Cooper
14. Lachie Turner
13. Stirling Mortlock (capt)
12. Berrick Barnes
11. Drew Mitchell
10. Matt Giteau
9. Luke Burgess

8. Wycliff Palu
7. George Smith
6. Richard Brown
5. Nathan Sharpe
4. James Horwill
3. Al Baxter
2. Stephen Moore
1. Benn Robinson

16. Tatafu Polota-Nau
17. Ben Alexander
18. Dean Mumm
19. Phil Waugh
20. David Pocock
21. Will Genia
22. James O’Connor

Back Three
Very little seperates the back three of the two sides. Sivivatu had an amazing Super 14 (when he returned from injury) and Muliaiina was one of the few shining lights in the All Blacks past 3 tests against France and Italy – often having to take responsibility and come up with something when the rest of the All Black team stuttered and faltered. A question mark remains over Cory Jane. He has pace, but in terms of International experience he is left sorely lacking. The return of Sivivatu also means this back three has had limited game time together. I think Australia edges New Zealand, just, in terms of the outside backs as a unit.

Midfield
I believe in this aspect Australia is firmly in control. Barnes/Mortlock have synergised well, in very short time, to develop into a potent unit. Both can kick out of hand, and Barnes distribution links in nicely with the hard running Mortlock. Nonu, on the back of a good Super 14, has so far been ordinary. The return of Smith is heartening for the All Blacks, but I believe the current form of the Australian centre pairing is enough to give them the upper hand in this respect.
In terms of the 9/10 axis, Australia again have the lead. Giteau, heralded by many as the best Flyhalf in the game at the moment, has been combining superbly with Burgess. Donald has so far had a shaky start to the International arena. In my view he will only get better, but I think that the Wallabies will be targetting him – and in Tri Nations a shaky, unconfident flyhalf is a weak link.

Backrow
Deans has opted for a slightly more conventional backrow, with the mobile Hodgson out for Palu (Brown switching to 6). The physicality of Palu preferred over pure mobility for this Tri Nations opener. So’oioalo, however, is back for New Zealand along with McCaw. The return of these two gives the All Black pack a completely new look. Expect the All Blacks performance at the breakdown to be greatly improved. Everyone in New Zealand will be hoping McCaw can be back to his best, but with only 45 minutes of Club Rugby under his belt it may be a lot to ask. If McCaw and So’oioalo can play to their potential, then I believe New Zealand’s backrow can match and possibly outperform the Wallaby backrow. Kaino will help to subdue the Wallaby runners around the base of the ruck, he had a solid Super 14 and deserves his place.

Tight Five
A lot has been said of the Wallaby tight 5 up to this point in the season. They have scrummed well, and are an incredibly mobile unit to boot (Benn Robinson secured multiple George-Smith-esque breakdown turnovers in the Super 14). Horwill and Sharpe compliment each other well, and both are used effectively as ball runners. Isaac Ross will be incredibly instrumental in contesting Wallaby ball at the lineout, and a lot will depend on his game. He is a rangy athletic lock, and if the game becomes loose he could play a bigger role. Eaton, on the bench, is superb cover if Sharpe/Horwill begin to prove too much. On the back of recent form, the Wallaby Tight Five are heading into the game as favourites.

The game will be hotly contested. This is not the same New Zealand team that lost to France and then stuttered to a shaky win against Italy. The All Black camp has been very quiet this past week, and will come out looking to win on Saturday. The Wallabies, on the back of 3 impressive performances, are beginning to look like a true force. On current form, one has to award it to the Wallabies. The All Blacks impregnable persona when playing at home has been damaged by their loss to France. I would never normally bet against the All Blacks at home, but the Wallabies current form is too strong to ignore. I believe if the Wallabies can establish a lead first, they can gain a mental edge over the under-pressure All Blacks, and can win it from their. For the punters out there looking for a big win – if you were ever going to tip the Wallabies to beat the All Blacks at home – you couldn’t be blamed for doing it this weekend.

Prediction – Wallabies by 3-5

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2 Responses to “Preview: Tri-Nations Game 1 – All Blacks v Wallabies, 18-07-09”

  1. rugby fan said

    This is where NZ are usually at their most dangerous, when they have been written off like they were last year after they lost in Sydney. I’d but NZ as slight favourites due to being at home. If the Wallabies had Elsom, I’d give us the edge.

    Australia NEED to win this game for their own confidence. The last thing we need is an all black side building momentum.

  2. monatu said

    I agree, New Zealand are not nearly as bad as the Media/people are trying to portray them as. I just think if things do not go their way early in the match the Wallabies will take control.

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