Wallabies vs. All Blacks: Date, Kick-Off Time and Bledisloe Cup 2017 Predictions

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2017

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 22:  The All Blacks perform the haka prior to the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Eden Park on October 22, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Australia and New Zealand will write another chapter in their storied rivalry on Saturday, as the two meet in the opening match of the 2017 Rugby Championship at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

As is always the case when these sides meet, results will count towards the Bledisloe Cup series. This match is the first of a trio between them this year, with the reverse Rugby Championship fixture in a week's time in Dunedin; the two sides will go head-to-head at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on October 21 in a potential decider.

It's a trophy that has not been out of New Zealand hands since 2002, when Australia won a two-match series 2-0. Once again, the All Blacks are the favourites to earn this prestigious accolade.

             

Date: Saturday, August 19

Time: 11 a.m. (BST), 6 a.m. (ET), 8 p.m. (Local)

TV Info: Sky Sports Action (UK)

Live Stream: Sky Go (UK)

              

Preview

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 22:  The All Blacks sing the anthem during the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Eden Park on October 22, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Phil
Phil Walter/Getty Images

While thoughts don't turn away from the Bledisloe Cup for long when these two teams meet, focus will initially be on the Rugby Championship for the duo.

If Australia are to dethrone New Zealand, you sense they will need to begin that process in Sydney. But it's been a while since the Wallabies scored any kind of victory against their old rivals, the most recent coming at the ANZ Stadium in August 2015.

In truth, Mike Cheika's side have not been in the best form since then, with the Rugby World Cup final loss to New Zealand seemingly knocking the wind out of their sails; just eight wins have followed in the 18 matches since. The coach did not sound particularly confident of a win on Saturday either.

Cheika's team are under pressure to perform.
Cheika's team are under pressure to perform.Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

"The target needs to be to put New Zealand under pressure, not necessarily to go out there and win," he told Nine Network's Sports (h/t AAP, via 1newsnow). "Then we will see what happens from there, we'll see if we can take the pickings."

As noted by EatSleepRugby, Australia have long struggled in matches against their biggest rivals:

In fairness to the Wallabies, they are not the only team that have failed to cope with the back-to-back world champions.

Last year, New Zealand were especially dominant in the Rugby Championship. Not only did Steve Hansen's side win all six matches they played, they did so by adding the gloss of a bonus point too. Even Australia and South Africa were at a loss at how to cope with their power and panache.

The British and Irish Lions may have offered some hope to New Zealand's rivals here, though, as they were able to battle to a drawn three-match series earlier this year.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 08:  Sam Warburton, (R) the Lions captain, lifts the trophy with Kieran Read, the All Black captain after their sides draw in the final test 15-15 and tie the series during the Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and
David Rogers/Getty Images

But Australia have failed to find any kind of consistent form as of late. And as the All Blacks Twitter account reminded us in the buildup to the game, there was quite a margin between the two teams when they last met:

It always takes a special performance to tame the force of the All Blacks, although on the back of three defeats in a row, it's unlikely the Wallabies can dig deep and pull out a historic display.

The Lions' blueprint may be the way to go for Cheika. The tourists were able to sap New Zealand's attacking spark with some resolute defending, excellent set pieces and deadly goal-kicking. Although it's a game plan that requires little margin for error if it's to be implemented effectively.

Some teams would be daunted by the atmosphere at the ANZ Stadium, but the All Blacks will relish the occasion and the opportunity to pile more misery on their rivals. Expect them to start their Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup defence with a trademark swagger.

                     

Prediction: Australia 15-35 New Zealand