Bledisloe 2- All Blacks a game away from the title

Tomorrow morning New Zealand could take this year’s Tri-nations title with 4 games still left to play. Their performances over the last few months have been excellent, they are unbeaten, and having adapted to the new set of laws with what is being labelled as an “all-action” style of rugby, they have simply brushed everyone else aside.

Anthony Faingaa makes a first start at 12

For Australia last week’s defeat stemmed from a combination of being starved of possession and silly errors. The red card given to Drew Mitchell following examination from the judiciary panel has been deemed a bit unlucky, but would Australia have stopped with New Zealand with 15? It’s hard to say. Robbie Deans has obviously felt changes were needed so in come the Faingaa twins, Saia and Anthony of the Queensland Reds. As for Anthony, good luck to him, because he’ll be facing the wrecking ball that is Ma’a Nonu.

To have your first start at inside centre against the All Blacks in Christchurch is like being put right at the bottom of the deep end, but anyone who saw him play at 12 for the Reds knows what he brings to the game; pace, flat on the game-line, and good off-loading skills. His combination in the centres with Adam Ashley-Cooper looks a little lightweight, but in truth AAC is their best player. His flexibility in the backline, he can play 11-15, is testament to his high level of quality. At full back, Kurtley Beale faces his biggest test yet at international level and Carter and Weepu’s smart kicking game will be used to test him early on. They will have to fight for every chance and if they can keep the ball away from the All Blacks and play the phases, the opportunities to score will come.

Weepu comes in at 9 for the injured Jimmy Cowan

Weepu is the only change to an excellent All Blacks side. Graham Henry will look for his players to produce the same error free performance as last week but to try and not concede as many points as Australia put on the board last time out. A home win, and the Tri-Nations title, seems likely.

Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8:30am

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Jo Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Benson Stanley

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Cameron Shepherd.

Date: Saturday, August 7
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)

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