Sport Rugby

Sunday 17 December 2017

Sharpe looks to spoil All Blacks' perfect year

With the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship already firmly in New Zealand hands, injury-depleted Australia still have a chance to spoil the All Blacks' perfect year in today's Test in Brisbane.

The All Blacks return to the scene of their last defeat 14 months ago, at Suncorp Stadium. One more win and New Zealand will equal their longest winning streak of 17, set by their predecessors from 1965-70. South Africa tied the record for top-tier teams in 1998, and Lithuania hold the world record of 18.

The Wallabies ruined the All Blacks' last shot at the record in 2010, when they won 26-24 against similar odds in Hong Kong to end New Zealand's run of 15 wins.

Nathan Sharpe, who has delayed his retirement to captain Australia after injuries to James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, says the Wallabies crave another unlikely victory.

"Every team is beatable," said Sharpe, who has 111 Test caps to his name. "It fits the Australian psyche a little bit. When the backs are to the wall the guys like to show their character."

New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup, which they've held since 2003, with 27-19 and 22-0 wins against Australia in August. After the second Test loss at Eden Park, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said it was hard for any team to compete with an All Blacks side in that form.

Deans also knows New Zealand will be "desperate" for the 17th straight win, as well as a fitting celebration for hooker Keven Mealamu, who will become the third All Black to play 100 Tests.

Australia -- M Harris; N Cummins, B Tapuai, P McCabe, A Ashley-Cooper; K Beale, N Phipps; B Robinson, T Polota Nau, J Slipper, S Timani, N Sharpe (capt), S Higginbotham, M Hooper, W Palu. Reps: J Hanson, S Kepu, K Douglas, D Dennis, L Gill, B Sheehan, D Mitchell.

New Zealand -- I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, H Gear; D Carter, A Smith; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Faumuina, B Retallick, S Whitelock, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Reps: A Hore, O Franks, L Romano, V Vito, P Weepu, A Cruden, B Smith.

Ref -- C Joubert (South Africa).

Australia v New Zealand,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 10.55am

Irish Independent

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