Wallabies in bid to stop All Blacks making history
Australia have ended lengthy All Black winning streaks twice in the last four years, and tomorrow it is again the Wallabies who stand in the path of what would be a Test record.
The All Blacks go into tomorrow's Rugby Championship opener at Sydney's Olympic Stadium (kick-off 11.05 Irish time) as unquestionably the world's best team, with 17 straight victories behind them.
An 18th straight triumph to kick-start what New Zealand hopes will be a third successive southern hemisphere title would surpass the feat achieved by the 1965-69 All Blacks and South Africa side of 1997-98 and claim the record outright.
The All Blacks were on a run of 15 wins when the Wallabies beat them in Hong Kong in 2010, though, and had managed 16 in a row when the injury-ravaged Australians, 7/1 outsiders in a two-horse race, earned an 18-18 draw in Brisbane in 2012.
It has been 12 years since the Australians last held the Bledisloe Cup.
Ewen McKenzie, who lost three times to the All Blacks in his maiden season as Wallabies coach last year, sprung a major surprise by naming Kurtley Beale as his fly-half in a gamble his opposite number Steve Hansen described as "dumbfounding".
Hansen expects the Wallabies to try and run the All Blacks off the park but indicated by putting Ben Smith at full-back in place of Israel Dagg that the ability to run the ball rather than put boot to leather is key to his game plan.
The Wallabies have built a seven-match winning streak of their own and will have been boosted by a superb season for Australian teams in Super Rugby, which ended with the New South Wales Waratahs claiming the title.
The All Blacks are without star out-half Dan Carter, who picked up an injury in the Super Rugby final but is expected back soon.
In the other match this weekend, Argentina are back close to full strength for their trip to South Africa tomorrow (4.05), with 13 changes from the depleted side that lost to Scotland last time out. Centre Damian de Allende will make his debut for the Springboks, alongside captain Jean de Villiers.
Australia - I Folau; P McCabe, A Ashley-Cooper, M Toomua, R Horne; K Beale, N White; J Slipper, N Charles, S Kepu; S Carter, R Simmons; S Fardy, M Hooper, W Palu. Reps: J Hanson, P Cowan, Ben Alexander, W Skelton, S Higginbotham, N Phipps, B Foley, T Kuridrani.
New Zealand - B Smith; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith; W Crockett, D Coles, O Franks; B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw, K Read. Reps: K Mealamu, B Franks, J Moody, S Luatua, S Cane, TJ Perenara, B Barrett, M Fekitoa.
Australia v New Zealand,
Live, tomorrow, S Sports 4, 11.05