Same Team, Same Challenge; Bledisloe Cup Third Test Match

You might say that, after The Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup third test match can feel like ‘an extra game’. A game too much even, as the same team brings the same challenge–so how does Steve Hansen motivate his team, and the rugby public, to support this challenge?

Yes, it will be a challenge. However you consider it; even if the All Blacks have won the last seven encounters, Australia bring a challenge. And on their home soil, it might be the match that gets up and ‘bites this side’.

That has certainly happened before. The result on the 27th of August 2011 was not expected. It ended at 25-20, with a Radike Samo break-out score that almost upset the plans of Graham Henry. Fortunately it did not derail the 2011 Rugby World Cup, mind you….some might say it counted for little in the long run.

And many feel that way about the Bledisloe Cup third test match. Why? Who benefits? Is it all about the gate takings/ratings?

But it affects the ledger of wins and losses. It affects the history of matches played in Queensland, and the challenge it will be in the back of the mind of head coach Steve Hansen.

Same Team, Same Challenge; Bledisloe Cup Third Test Match

Hansen must motivate the side below to focus squarely on the Wallabies. To be intent on improving–which is actually the more important factor for commentators and fans alike. Since the Dunedin second test match was ‘only just’ in the hosts favour, the reverse game has to be of a higher quality.

“Both teams have their own goals and expectations. From Australia’s point of view, they’ll be desperate to win as they haven’t done so for some time,” was the statement from Hansen via the NZ Rugby media release.

“For us, our goal is to never be satisfied at where we’re at.”

Winning the Championship, and seeing Australia draw two games against South Africa, the public might see it as easy. Hansen must motivate his team to not be complacent, and to raise their game. “That means it’s greater than just the outcome. It’s about how we play, individually and collectively as a unit.  We’re always striving to get better every game and this week is no different.

#AUSvNZL matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:

1. Kane Hames (5)
2. Dane Coles (54)
3. Nepo Laulala (9)
4. Samuel Whitelock (92)
5. Scott Barrett (13)
6. Liam Squire (12)
7. Sam Cane (49)
8. Kieran Read (106) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (67)
10. Lima Sopoaga (12)
11. Rieko Ioane (9)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (42)
13. Ryan Crotty (31)
14. Waisake Naholo (14)
15. Damian McKenzie (8)

Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor (25), 17. Wyatt Crockett (67), 18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (10), 19. Patrick Tuipulotu (14), 20. Matt Todd (10), 21. TJ Perenara (38), 22. Anton Lienert-Brown (18), 23. David Havili (2).

The team features four changes from the matchday 23 which played the last Test against South Africa and they are all in the backs: Lima Sopoaga comes in for Beauden Barrett in the 10 jersey.

Barrett Rested to Ensure Full Recovery from Head Injury

In the most critical injury related call in recent All Blacks player welfare, Barrett’s term as first-choice first five has been cut short. While he must have been considered for a rest–after ten games in a row–this injury is critical for the next phase of the All Blacks calendar. The northern tour is coming up, so Barrett’s rest is ‘best medicine’.

But Sopoaga will do well. He is assured, composed and needs the confidence boost that starting, and controlling a Bledisloe Cup test match brings.

In other changes, Waisake Naholo comes in on the right wing for the injured Nehe Milner-Skudder.  TJ Perenara is reserve halfback/outside back, with Anton Lienert-Brown coming into the 23 to provide additional back cover, beside David Havili.

Meanwhile, Sam Cane will play his 50th Test in an All Blacks career, which started five years ago in June 2012. The Bay of Plenty and Chiefs player has established himself, by withstanding the years in wait for Richie McCaw to retire–and now the pressure that Matt Todd and Ardie Save apply.

All Blacks a Mix of Experience and Future Planning

“It’ll be another great opportunity for this young team to show what they’ve learnt throughout the year. Playing at Suncorp Stadium will be another fantastic learning experience for them all”. Hansen spoke of the challenge, and the positives that having a good fan base will bring.

“It’s a great ground, and there’ll be huge support for the All Blacks, which we’re looking forward to.”

Last Word on Rugby are reporting from Brisbane, and will follow the match build-up closely. From the team announcement, there are positives to draw on but, the glaring absence of Brodie Retallick is also a key point. Missing due to family reasons, he leaves a big void.

Patrick Tuipulotu passes the ball during a New Zealand All Blacks training session on October 19, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

His solid role needs to be filled, and Scott Barrett seems to be the preferred option for future planning. Though, Patrick Tuipulotu (see above picture) just needs one good period of sustained play, and he could cement that third choice locking position.

Several players are in that same position; Matt Todd, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Perform well on Saturday night, and importantly, bring some much needed impact from the bench for this Bledisloe Cup fixture, and they could push for starting places in the next test match: the Barbarians, at Twickenham.

It is important that New Zealand play an 80 minute game. That they absorb the early pressure, negate the home advantage that Australia hold. And also, kick the goals on offer–if it is a wet game, adapting to the predicted wet, monsoon conditions of Queensland could be the winning, or losing of this Bledisloe Cup third test match.


“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images