Australia can take a huge stride towards snatching the Bledisloe Cup from New Zealand when the two sides meet in Sydney on Saturday.
Matches between the two Southern Hemisphere heavyweights always produce drama, with the All Blacks having the edge not just in recent years but throughout the sides’ history.
New Zealand won the 2012 tournament relatively comfortably. First they defeated Australia on their opponent’s patch before hammering them 22-0 in Auckland.
Oddly the tournament’s epic encounter occurred in the final match after the tournament was decided, with the two foes playing out an 18-18 draw to end the All Blacks' 18-game winning streak. Both sides pummelled each other and played long after the siren had sounded, intent on risking defeat to snatch victory.
So onto this year’s tournament and the all-important details ahead of the first match that also forms part of the Rugby Championship with Argentina and South Africa.
Where: ANZ Stadium
When: Saturday August 17 at 11:05 a.m. BST/06:05 a.m. ET
Watch: Sky Sports (UK) and FOX Sports 2 (US)
Stream: Sky Go (subscription required)
2002. That was the last year the Wallabies lifted the Bledisloe Cup.
Since then their Oceanic rivals have racked up 10 titles back to back, with Australia barely coming close in a single one.
It’s time for change. Although they must face the All Blacks twice in New Zealand they have the perfect opportunity to get off to a solid start in front of their own fans.
Victory would install belief and possibly create doubt in their rival’s camp; defeat would leave them facing an all too familiar series whitewash.
For anyone still in doubt over what the tournament means to these respective sides, take a look at Australian rugby commentator Greg Clark’s tweet featuring a video of Jonah Lomu’s Bledisloe memories:
New Zealand are clear favourites, but they must defend their imperious record without star Dan Carter who is out of the opening two matches with a calf injury, according to the BBC.
The problem for the Wallabies is his replacement is Aaron Cruden, who recently helped the Chiefs retain their Super Rugby crown.
Quade Cooper was recalled to the Aussie squad but takes his place on the bench, as reported by The Guardian, meaning Cruden’s opposite number is set to be fly-half Matt Touma.
Cruden got the better of Brumbies player Touma in the Super Rugby final, and although the Australian played a starring role in the Wallabies’ sole win over the British and Irish Lions, the match against New Zealand represents a different challenge, and all eyes will be on Cooper’s replacement on his Test debut.
Cooper was expected to feature after being recalled to the international setup after 12 months in the wilderness but he’s struggled to live up to the heights of leading the Queensland Reds to the Super Rugby title in 2011.
Australia just haven’t been able to compete with their more illustrious rivals over the past decade. The signs were promising when they eliminated the All Blacks in the 2003 World Cup, but since then their great rivals have dominated. New Zealand even made up for their World Cup disappointment with a 20-6 World Cup semi-final win two years ago en route to winning the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil.
It’s likely to be a tight opening match with the result having far greater bearing on Australia than it will for New Zealand.
If Australia win they can take a huge step towards finally ending their baron run for Bledisloe glory and set themselves up nicely for a good run in the Rugby Championship. But if New Zealand triumph, their name is as good as engraved on the trophy for 2013.
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