Preview: All Blacks vs Wallabies

JON CARDINELLI says the All Blacks will beat the Wallabies this Saturday to secure the Tri-Nations title.

After that mauling in Melbourne, the Wallabies will be hurting. Don’t underestimate the damage that 49-28 loss did to their psyche. Christchurch beckons, and another figurative and literal beating is likely.

Their forwards were outmuscled at the Ethiad Stadium, and this week, the benching of Stephen Moore won’t help their gainline or set-piece aspirations. The Saia Faingaa selection may add to their mobility, but mobility means nothing when you’re losing the battle at the collisions and scrums.

Will Genia isn’t as potent behind a losing pack and was well watched by the defence last week. The Wallabies are also missing Quade Cooper’s ingenuity and running threat in the flyhalf channel. Matt Giteau doesn’t take on the opposition defence like Cooper, and it’s because of this that the All Blacks have had an easier time of stifling the Aussie surge.

Some call it cheating, New Zealanders call it mastery. Richie McCaw will continue his dominance in this year’s Tri-Nations, ruling the breakdown in spite of the plucky David Pocock. That Australian back row aren’t done any favours by the five up front, and as a unit, they are lacking balance. Richard Brown has been a poor ball-carrying option thus far, and will be smashed backward once again.

Anthony Faingaa was impressive in the Super 14, but is in for a difficult Test debut in Christchurch. The All Blacks forwards should have the upper hand, and Dan Carter is in sublime form. Carter’s catalytic distribution should allow Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith to maximise their running talents, and the Wallabies’ new midfield of Faingaa and Adam Ashley-Cooper will find them difficult to contain.

The All Blacks are in rampant mood, and whether the game stays tight or grows loose, they should win comfortably. They’ve been brutally effective when they’ve retained possession or when probing for territory. If the Aussies kick poorly or concede the ball at the breakdown, the awesome All Blacks counterattack has the class to convert opportunities into points.

I called the All Blacks to win by 10 last week, a prediction that may have come to pass had the Wallabies finished the game with 15 men. This week, the All Blacks are at least five points better for starting at home. It’ll be a fourth straight win in the competition and secure them the Tri-Nations title and the Bledisloe Cup.

Prediction: All Blacks by 15

All Blacks – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 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 (c),5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Cameron Shepherd.

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