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2012 Rugby Championship: All Blacks vs. Wallabies Preview

David ParkContributor IIINovember 5, 2016

2012 Rugby Championship: All Blacks vs. Wallabies Preview

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    As the inaugural Rugby Championship begins this Saturday, current Rugby World Cup Champions New Zealand (All Blacks) take on the 2011 Tri-Nations winners Australia (Wallabies) in the first match.

    With both squads currently recovering from the conclusion of the Super 15 season, both teams will be trying to find the right chemistry and balance to notch their first win this coming Saturday.

    This match will also be the first match for the Bledisloe Cup which the All Blacks currently hold.

    Let's get started and preview the upcoming game this Saturday.

Fullback, Wings and Centers.

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    The Wallabies have already named their outside backs and centers—with Kurtley Beale at fullback, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane on the wings and Rob Horne and Anthony Fainga'a in the centers.

    A lot is left to be desired with the Wallabies backline as coach Robbie Deans' decision to input Rob Horne, a player who is susceptible to injury, being chosen over Mike Harris, who is probably the form Australian center around, will be heavily scrutinized if Horne fails to perform. 

    The All Blacks have not yet chosen their 22 for the upcoming test match, but it is probable that Israel Dagg will line up at fullback alongside Cory Jane and either Julian Savea or Hosea Gear on the wings (the other wing spot will most likely go to Julian Savea). Incumbent centers Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith should line-up in the midfield.

    At this moment in time the All Blacks backline is currently the best in the world. Although the Wallabies do pose threats to the All Blacks backs, New Zealand will be too strong in this department both in attack and especially in defense where they have Smith and Nonu.

    Advantage : All Blacks

Half-Backs

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    Will Genia, the vice-captain of the Wallabies and arguably the best scrum-half in the world will team up with fly-half Berrick Barnes this week.

    With regular pivot Quade Cooper being omitted from the 22 altogether, Barnes will shoulder most of the attacking plays for the Wallabies. 

    For the All Blacks, Aaron Smith or Piri Weepu will battle it out to partner the world's best fly-half in Daniel Carter. Aaron Smith will most likely be the starting halfback this week with Weepu who has been subject to heavy criticism because of his playing weight and form, coming off the bench.

    In this battle, it is neck and neck as the Wallabies have the best halfback and the All Blacks having the best fly-half. It all comes down to the Wallabies fly-half (Barnes) and the starting no.9 for the All Blacks (Smith or Weepu).

    In this instance, I am going to give a slight edge to the Wallabies because of Genia's importance to the Wallabies and because of his service to the backs and forwards at the breakdown.

    Advantage : Wallabies

Number 8, Flankers and Locks.

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    Scott Higginbotham will be at No.8 alongside flankers David Pocock and Dave Dennis. The locks for the Wallabies will be stalwart Nathan Sharpe and the inexperienced Sitaleki Timani. 

    For the All Blacks, Kieran Read will most probably line up at No.8 alongside All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Liam Messam. Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are expected to begin in the second row.

    In this battle, I will give a slight advantage to the All Blacks.

    Both the Wallabies No.8's are world class players and will most likely cancel each other out, meaning the flankers may well determine the outcome of this match.

    New Wallabies captain David Pocock will continue his ongoing battle against probably the best flanker of all time in McCaw—they will also cancel each other out at the breakdowns.

    However, Messam will out-duel Dennis in the other flanker position.

    New Zealand will also hold an advantage in the second row, where Whitelock and Retallick will prove too strong and fast for Sharpe and newcomer Timani. The Whitelock-Retallick combo also excel at the lineout so the edge is firmly with the All Blacks here.

    Advantage : All Blacks

Front Row

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    The Wallabies have an all Waratahs front row with Benn Robinson and Sekope Kepu at prop and Tatafu Polota-Nau at hooker. 

    The All Blacks will most likely have the Franks brothers, Ben and Owen at prop, alongside incumbent hooker Kevin Mealamu.

    This battle will also go in favor of the All Blacks. The Franks brothers will out hustle the Robinson and Kepu duo.

    Another key component will be the scrum and the Franks brothers will also handle that department with relative ease. Polota-Nau might be younger than Mealamu but his shakiness in line-outs and Mealamu's wits will most likely be the undoing of Polota-Nau.

    Advantage : All Blacks

Bench

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    The Wallabies have gone with the 5-2 bench (Five forwards and two backs). They have Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps and Drew Mitchell on their bench. 

    The All Blacks will most likely go for a 4-3 bench—in all probability going for Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Luke Romano, Andrew Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Hosea Gear as their substitutes. 

    The versatility the All Blacks have in this department will favor them heavily. If Barnes goes down due to injury, the Wallabies will have no one to fall back on. Genia could play at the flyhalf position but his skill set and his presence is most relied upon at his natural position which is at scrum-half.

    The All Blacks meanwhile will have the form fly-half of the Super 15 competition in Cruden waiting to fill up the void of Carter when he goes down. The forward composition of the bench also offers good versatility compared to the Wallabies' who look one dimensional—with the exception of Radike Samo

    Thus, the All Blacks also have the advantage in the bench area

    Advantage : All Blacks 

Coach

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    Robbie Deans comes into this match under heavy criticism because of his team selection and poor results. 

    Steve Hansen, the rookie coach, will have a time tough time replacing one of the best coaches of all time in Sir Graham Henry. 

    Purely because of the experience Robbie Deans has in international rugby, I will give this tactical edge to the Wallabies

    Advantage : Wallabies

Final Prediction

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    In all honesty, it will be a mammoth task for the Wallabies to topple over the current world champions and World Number 1 in the All Blacks.

    The Wallabies selection dilemma also does not help, and I expect the All Blacks to win this one fairly easily—but the Wallabies will be playing in front of a very vocal home crowd and thus should not be looked down upon. 

    Final Score : All Blacks 29 - 18 Wallabies

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