Sunday 18 February 2018

All Blacks make two changes in bid to inflict more pain on Australia

New Zealand's All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams (C) performing the haka with teammates Sam Cane (L) and Ben Smith (R) before their Rugby Championship test match against the Australian Wallabies in Sydney last week
New Zealand's All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams (C) performing the haka with teammates Sam Cane (L) and Ben Smith (R) before their Rugby Championship test match against the Australian Wallabies in Sydney last week
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The All Blacks have been reminded that they must not switch off and strive to improve their finishing if they are to retain the Bledisloe Cup when they meet the Wallabies in Dunedin on Saturday.

The world champions thrashed Australia 54-34 in Sydney last week and can retain the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy for a 15th successive season with a win in the second round of Rugby Championship clashes that kicks off at 7.35 pm (0735 Irish time).

Despite the margin of victory, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was disappointed his side let their standards slip once his they had established a 54-6 lead after 48 minutes and has told them they cannot afford another repeat.

"We threw poor passes, our skill execution was poor, our defence was poor," Hansen told reporters in Dunedin on Thursday. "There wasn't too much that was good really. So that has been quite handy. It has brought people down to earth."

Due to a poor Super Rugby campaign, the Wallabies had spent a month together preparing for the southern hemisphere championship and Hansen said not playing competitively for so long probably had an effect on last week's result.

"To be able to play with the intensity and pace that test level brings you've got... to play," Hansen said. "They'll be a lot sharper of mind and body (in Dunedin).

"They'll be hurting so that will make them even hungrier than they have been and they know that if they don't get it right this week then there's the Bledisloe gone."

Hansen has made just two changes to his starting side with hooker Dane Coles returning from an injury-ravaged season to earn his 50th test cap in place of Codie Taylor.

Nepo Laulala is the other change, coming in at tighthead prop after Owen Franks succumbed to a long-standing Achilles injury after initially making the side.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika also resisted the urge to shake up his side, making just three changes to his starting lineup with arguably the most important being the elevation of centre Tevita Kuridrani from the bench.

The All Blacks exploited major cohesion issues in defence in the Wallabies' backline last week, as Samu Kerevi still appeared to be struggling with injury and was beaten several times before Kuridrani replaced him, while Rory Arnold drops to the bench to allow Rob Simmons to replace him in the second row alongside Adam Coleman.

In the third change, Dane Haylett-Petty returns on the wing after recovering from a bicep injury to replace Curtis Rona, who scored a try on debut last week as the Wallabies ran in four unanswered tries in an improved second-half performance.

Other than bracketing Jack Dempsey with fellow loose forward Lopeti Timani on the bench pending Friday's captain's run, Cheika has kept intact the side that was so badly outclassed by the world champions in the first half last week.

Kerevi's defensive woes, however, were probably exacerbated by the constant shuffling of Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale away from the point of attack to compensate for their frailties, and Cheika said the entire team were working on their defence.

"We have to be better," Cheika told reporters in Christchurch.

"We know they will come with a lot of good attack so we need to read and be cool and when it's time to heat up and go make the tackle we get up there and get stuck into it."

Teams

New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Kane Hames, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.

Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Perry, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper (captain), Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Allan Ala'atoa, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Lopeti Timani or Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge, Curtis Rona.

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