The Wallabies are coming to Eden Park once again, trying to claim their first Auckland win in three decades.
If that wasn’t a hard enough challenge, they’ll have to overcome a New Zealand side on the verge of a record 18th-straight Test win. The Wallabies have made a swathe of changes, with four shifts in the backline, headlined by a move for Quade Cooper on to the bench. Bernard Foley returns to his preferred flyhalf spot, while Reece Hodge will team up with Samu Kerevi in the centres, opening the door for Henry Speight to return on the wing.
The All Blacks have kept their team relatively stable, with Julian Savea selected over Waisake Naholo in the starting side, while Matt Todd has kept Ardie Savea out of the starting seven spot. New Zealand comes into the match after a record 57-15 win over the Springboks and captain Kieran Read said on Friday that they were embracing their chance to claim the consecutive wins record.
Australia has not won at Eden Park since 1986.
New Zealand is one win away from a record 18 straight Test wins, which would be the most of any Tier One nation.
Australia was the last team to end an All Blacks’ record run, with a 2012 draw in Brisbane and the Wallabies were the most recent team to defeat New Zealand, in Sydney last year.
KEY MATCH UPS
Adam Coleman vs Sam Whitelock
The lineout was improved between the Wallabies’ Sydney and Wellington Tests and a big part of that was the addition of Coleman. He has since cemented his position as a starting lock, after just five Tests, and will compare himself against the yardstick. As the chief lineout caller, his decisions will be under the microscope at Eden Park, with New Zealand’s defensive set piece by far the best in the world.
Israel Folau vs Ben Smith
It’s been a tough year for Israel Folau, below his best form through 2016 and it will be a difficult assignment for the Wallabies fullback again on Saturday night. HIs opposite number, Smith, has been on fire and after playing some wing has reclaimed his 15 jersey and is reminding opponents why he has such a stronghold on it. SMith has scored five tries in his past four Tests and will be a danger once again. If the Wallabies can get the ball to Izzy, they’ll be a whole different kind of threat
Henry Speight vs Julian Savea
Michael Cheika has picked a specialist winger to start for close to the first time this year and Henry Speight has everything to prove in this final Bledisloe match. After a stint with the Sevens, Speight is fitter than ever and this could be an opportunity for him to show if he still possesses the electric pace he made his mark with back in 2013 and 2014. Savea has won his spot back in the latter half of this year and has proved himself as one of New Zealand’s best finishers. This could be an enthralling comparison.
WHERE WILL THE GAME WILL BE WON?
It’s all about defence. That’s where the Wallabies were unravelled in Sydney and it’s where the All Blacks excel. Whether it’s in the set piece or general play, the Wallabies need to match up to the New Zealand attack and utilise their injection of pace on the wing. Michael Cheika has gone with a bigger centre pairing than he’s used in the past month, which could
Starting team: Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, ADam Coleman, Dean Mumm, Michael Hooper, Lopeti Timani, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Henry Speight, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau.
Reserves: James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, David Pocock, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Sefa Naivalu.
Starting team: Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Matt Todd, Kieran Read, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith.
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa
Today's triple header of Rugby action starts with the Wallaroos and New Zealand at 3:05pm, the Bledisloe Cup at 5:35pm, and then Buildcorp NRC Final at 7:45pm. All live on FOXSPORTS 502 (All times ADST)