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Wallabies vs. All Blacks: Date, Kick-off Time and Bledisloe Cup 2016 Predictions

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 19, 2016

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 15:  Kieran Read of the All Blacks is tackled by Tevita Kuridrani of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at Eden Park on August 15, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Australia will begin their defence of the 2016 Rugby Championship on Saturday, and reigning world champions New Zealand travel to Sydney promising a Bledisloe Cup opener to remember.

The scheduling of the 2015 Rugby World Cup meant last year's contest was restricted to a single round of fixtures, and the Wallabies took full advantage by triumphing in all three of their matches to take the top prize.

This will be the All Blacks' first major tournament without the likes of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, who announced their international retirements following the World Cup.

Australia in training.
Australia in training.PETER PARKS/Getty Images

Head coach Steve Hansen has nevertheless come upon another selection dilemma, however, and he'll be eager to ensure his side begin this year's Bledisloe Cup contest in the right fashion.

Australia counterpart Michael Cheika took Australia to the final of the World Cup during his first full year in charge of the Wallabies, but the question now is if 2016 can be as fruitful a term for the tactician.

Read on for a preview of Saturday's Rugby Championship opener, complete with all the necessary viewing information. 

     

Date: Saturday, August 20

Time: 11:05 a.m. BST/8:05 p.m. local time/6:05 a.m. ET

Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney

TV Info: Sky Sports 3 (UK), Fox Sports 2 (AUS), Sky Sport (NZ)

      

Wallabies in Search for Consistency

Australia coach Cheika addresses the media.
Australia coach Cheika addresses the media.PETER PARKS/Getty Images

Australia have come a long way in re-establishing themselves as an international powerhouse under the guidance of former Waratahs coach Cheika.

But the real test now is building a sustained period of title competition under Cheika, and he recently confessed he'll take influence from New Zealand in order to do so, per Hamish Bidwell of Stuff:

Something we really want to build in our team is more mental toughness. I don't think we've been brilliant at that in the past and we've been working hard at it in the last 18 months and want to continue to build that. It's something that when a new player comes into the squad he really feels.

We came off a June that wasn't what we wanted it to be around the results. Like my counterpart [Hansen] over there tries to say, we've got problems and you can wallow in that stuff or you can see what you need to improve and fight to get back up there.

The All Blacks, often don't start their matches as the dominant team, but supreme fitness measured alongside a never-say-die mental fortitude often ensures they at least finish the stronger, and to great effect.

Sky Sports Rugby recently celebrated the return of the Bledisloe Cup with tribute to one of the greatest matches of its kind, when New Zealand triumphed 39-35 in Sydney of all places:

Sky Sports Rugby @SkySportsRugby

16 years since this classic - can we expect another thriller this weekend between @qantaswallabies and @allblacks? https://t.co/NjtsG7w4LM

However, Australia went on to earn their revenge in Wellington that year and ultimately retain the Bledisloe Cup, a crown more about bragging rights than anything else.

Cheika has laid the groundwork for his own dynasty with the Wallabies, but now comes the time when Australia really need to capitalise under his tutelage.

     

Steve Hansen's Selection Headache

Carter and McCaw retired from the national team in 2015.
Carter and McCaw retired from the national team in 2015.Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Legends of the squad may come and go, but one thing's for certain is that any New Zealand coach will always have a difficult time selecting his best XV.

Thus remains the case for All Blacks coach Hansen, and his assistant, Ian Foster, recently told the All Blacks' official website of the conundrums awaiting New Zealand's mentor this week:

If you look at the guys we've got there, Ryan [Crotty] has had a number of Tests and Malakai [Fekitoa] is the same and has a number of Tests under his belt so when you go through that, and obviously losing George [Moala] we're short of that option but we've got guys who have played a bit of Test match rugby and who have played over here as well so I think whichever way we go it's exciting for us.

We know its new but it's something we saw in June, we made good progress in the midfield and now it's going to be next step up.

One particular head-scratcher is the decision as to who will start at fly-half, the Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett or Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs, and rugby reporter Christy Doran reported the call could go either way:

Christy Doran @ChristypDoran

Both Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett training at 10. #AllBlacks giving nothing away. https://t.co/gkmtwTE2Oz

Barrett has continued to assert his presence on the Super Rugby stage after guiding the 'Canes to the 2016 title, whereas Cruden is the more experienced of the two and was long deputy to Carter before injury.

Hansen has handled his selections with aplomb in his first four-and-a-half years at the New Zealand helm, but after losing last year's Rugby Championship, an unfamiliar sense of pressure is on to make it work in 2016.

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