The second Test of the Bledisloe Cup between Australia and New Zealand gets underway at Eden Park on Saturday, with the tie perfectly poised after an opening-Test draw in Sydney.
While the Australians will be full of confidence after more than holding their own in the first Test, the All Blacks’ record at Eden Park will dampen their spirits somewhat—as Commentary Box Sports revealed:
The Wallabies, then, will likely come out of the traps with all guns blazing seeking an end to their torrid run in Auckland, setting up what looks like being another thriller Down Under.
Date: Saturday, August 23
Time: 8:35 a.m. BST/3:35 a.m. ET
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Live Stream: Sky Go (U.K. Only)
Wallabies Naming Unchanged Side at Eden Park
Though a try-less encounter in Sydney in the first Test, the way that Australia performed in less-than-favourable conditions at the ANZ Stadium has warranted repeat selections.
The rain was driving down as these two titans of world rugby played out a 12-12 draw, with Aaron Cruden and Kurtley Beale scoring four penalties apiece.
The latter was a controversial selection by coach Ewen McKenzie initially, but he more than justified his place in the side with an excellent display.
There was no other option for the 25-year-old, as replacing the tenacious Bernard Foley at five-eighth carried a lot of weight on Beale’s shoulders—including from BBC’s Ben Coles:
Eyebrow-raiser from the Wallabies, with Kurtley Beale picked at 10 ahead of Bernard Foley to face New Zealand.— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) August 12, 2014
However, the No. 10 has done enough to remain in the squad on Saturday, as did the 22 other members of it, who will finally have the stage to show their best rugby to the world.
Auckland will likely be dry and cool when Australia and New Zealand face off, and that’s something that McKenzie thinks his players will be looking forward to—per Georgina Robinson of The Sydney Morning Herald:
We were impressed with the pressure we were able to apply in the opening Test and, despite some errors, were pleased with the intent of the group to continue attacking despite the poor weather conditions. I imagine both teams are excited by the prospect of a dry evening in Auckland on Saturday night, which will have an influence on the way the game is played. For us, we know we need to be more clinical in certain areas, but overall we feel the same group of guys deserve the opportunity to have another crack.
While the Wallabies have earned their shot at ending New Zealand’s remarkable Bledisloe Cup run, it certainly won’t come easy—particularly with the All Blacks coming out with a point to prove.
McKenzie’s men were undoubtedly the better team at the ANZ, and they can consider themselves unlucky not to have come away with victory.
However, their brilliance may well come back to haunt them, as the All Blacks now have the motivation to prove exactly why they’re the best team on the planet.
That’s according to their hero from the first Test, Aaron Cruden, who said that while Australia deserve credit for their performance, his side will make a big step up at Eden Park—per the All Blacks’ official website:
We do have to give the Australian defence a lot of credit. They really came hard at us but we have to tweak a few things in terms of our game plan and get our decision-making right to try and apply a bit more pressure. For us it is just going out there and doing your job and understanding your role really well and executing that to the best of your ability.
Should New Zealand produce their best, then the Aussies could be in for a long evening in Auckland but confidence goes a long way in international rugby.
If Beale and Co. can once again force Kiwi backs against the wall on Saturday, Eden Park may well play host to a big sporting shock. Either way, the stage couldn’t be more perfectly set.