Sportal.co.nz - (29/10/2010)
New Zealand has its unbroken run of victories on the line as it shapes up to an ever-improving Australian side in their Bledisloe Cup contest in Hong Kong on Saturday.
VENUE & TIME: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, Saturday October 30, 21:30 NZT.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 139 - New Zealand 95, Australia 39, Draws 5.
September 11, 2010 (Sydney) - New Zealand 23-22 Australia.
Both sides have welcomed back players from injury breaks. Ben Alexander has returned in the Australian front row and Drew Mitchell has resumed on the wing. Their return will strengthen Australia. For New Zealand, first five-eighths Daniel Carter is returning after ankle surgery that forced him out of the last Bledisloe Cup-Tri Nations match.
New Zealand, lost 22-23
South Africa, won 41-39
South Africa, lost 31-44
New Zealand lost 10-20
New Zealand, lost 28-49
Australia, won 23-22
South Africa, won 44-31
Australia, won 20-10
Australia, won 49-28
South Africa, won 31-17
Both sides have been out of action since they completed the Tri Nations, the last game of which saw the All Blacks get home late in the game for the win. Several of the All Blacks have been able to keep their match fitness up with games in the ITM Cup although Test match rugby is a significant step up from that. However, preparations have been intense for both sides as part of their build-up for their respective northern tours and there should be no lack of intensity in the game.
Clearly the battle is going to be on again upfront and Australia will be heartened by the return of prop Ben Alexander and he should strengthen the tight core. But the most obvious area of contest will be in the loose where David Pocock, the big performer for Australia throughout the season, will be pitting himself against Richie McCaw. The All Blacks captain has rested since the end of the Tri Nations but said he couldn't wait to resume so the contest will be lively again. All Black Jerome Kaino was one of the unsung heroes of the side's Tri Nations efforts and he will have a might battle with Australian captain Rocky Elsom in the tight-loose play. Quade Cooper has been an outstanding performer in his side's rejuvenation and he, too, faces a battle with a champion, albeit one returning from injury, Dan Carter. The mid-field battle will again be significant as Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper front Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith. And at the back of both teams are two champions, Kurtley Beale for Australia and Mils Muliaina for New Zealand.
The neutral venue will lend a strange atmosphere for this contest and while the Bledisloe Cup is safely stored away in New Zealand's possession, this match could prove the hardest for the All Blacks to win. There will be some rustiness for both teams as they resume after a significant break. Australia has a mighty incentive to end its run of losses to the All Blacks. But the bad news for Australian aspirations is that the All Blacks have incentive of their own as the build towards reclaiming the world record run of successive victories. The contest will be close but the more experienced New Zealand team should take it. New Zealand by five points.
1.Benn Robinson, 2.Stephen Moore, 3.Ben Alexander, 4.Mark Chisholm, 5.Nathan Sharpe, 6.Rocky Elsom (captain), 7.David Pocock, 8.Ben McCalman, 9.Will Genia, 10.Quade Cooper,
11.Drew Mitchell, 12. Matt Giteau, 13.Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14.James O'Connor, 15.Kurtley Beale.
Reserves: 16: Saia Fainga'a, 17.James Slipper, 18.Dean Mumm, 19.Richard Brown, 20.Luke Burgess, 21.Berrick Barnes, 22.Lachie Turner
1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brad Thorn, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read,
9.Jimmy Cowan, 10.Daniel Carter,
11.Josevata Rokocoko, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: 16.Hikawera Elliot, 17.John Afoa, 18.Sam Whitelock, 19.Daniel Braid, 20.Alby Mathewson, 21.Stephen Donald, 22.Isaia Toeava.