Bledisloe Cup 2013: Key Players in New Zealand vs. Australia Clash

Joe Strange@joe_strangeContributor IAugust 24, 2013

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 17: Andrew Hore of the All Blacks passes during The Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Anyone tuning in to watch Saturday's second Test of the Bledisloe Cup could be forgiven for thinking that the result is already a forgone conclusion.

New Zealand have dominated the annual contest against rivals Australia for the last decade, winning every trophy since regaining it in 2003.

In fact, they've lost only five of the last 29 Tests during that period and another win in Wellington will see them successfully defend their crown for a 10th successive year.

But, despite all the statistics and recent form, Australia will be well aware that a victory this weekend is imperative to keep the series alive, at least for another match.

Here's a look at four of the key players set to take part in Saturday's fixture.

Ben Smith, New Zealand

Arguably New Zealand's man of the match last week, Ben Smith contributed a hat-trick of tries to help his side secure a comfortable 47-29 win in the opening Test.

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The 27-year-old wing dominated Australia's left side, utilising his pace and power in an impressive individual display.

The Highlanders star will get the nod again on Saturday and few would bet against him turning in another eye-catching performance.

Will Genia, Australia

Australia's Will Genia scored the standout try of the first Test, receiving the ball in his own half before sprinting past a number of opponents and finishing with ease.

However, the talented scrum-half came unstuck defensively on a few occasions, allowing the likes of Aaron Smith to take advantage.

Genia will need to put in a more well-rounded performance on Saturday, while retaining the individual flair he demonstrated last week.

Richie McCaw, New Zealand

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw returned from his self-imposed six-month sabbatical in the first Test and looked like he'd never been away.

McCaw scored one of his side's six tries and put in a commanding performance despite being away from the international setup for nine months.

The 32-year-old has the pace and ability to once again dominate an inexperienced Australia side.

James O'Connor, Australia

Shifted out to the wing by new coach Ewen McKenzine, James O'Connor struggled to impose himself in the opening Test.

The talented 23-year-old was too often outdone by hat-trick hero Ben Smith and he will be determined not suffer the same fate in Wellington.

Recently linked with a move to Saracens, O'Connor has a chance to impress potential suitors with an improved display against the All Blacks on Saturday.


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