Sunday, April 01, 2007

3N: AB vs Oz preview

August 17, 2006


The Tri-Nations gets back to business this weekend after a two-week break. The Wallabies have already conceded the Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand after losing the first two-out-of-three. They have pride to play for, and still a slight chance of winning the Tri-Nations. The All Blacks, are less desperate -- they can afford a loss, but a win in front of home fans will ensure they win the competition before South Africa even gets a home test. The Boks and their fans are crossing their fingers and hoping for a Wallaby victory. But the All Blacks have everything to play for, and will be doing it in front of a sold-out Eden Park.

The big news for the All Blacks leading into the test match is their dreadful line-out (see Red Terror passim ad neauseum) and coach Graham Henry's selection of young Isaia Toeava at outside-center. The nerves of this bold selection may be exacerbated with impacting reports that AB inside-center Aaron Mauger is injured and his start is uncertain until game time.

Via Rugby Planet:

New Zealand second five-eighth Aaron Mauger will undertake a fitness test on Friday to determine his availability for the decisive Tri-Nations match against Australia at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. [...]

Luke McAlister and Sam Tuitupou both spent time training in the second five-eighth position this week after Mauger sat out of Wednesday's session.


UPDATE: Confirmed: Mauger withdrawn.

Second five-eighth Aaron Mauger's withdrawal from the All Blacks rugby team to play Australia tomorrow will intensify the pressure on rookie centre Isaia Toeava and also test his replacement Luke McAlister's ability to command the midfield role.

Re: the Toeava selection has many kiwi fans are perplexed, but Henry's move gets a stamp of approval from ex-Springbok media liason Mark Keohane:

Take young Isaia Toeava as an example of World Cup planning. He was taken on tour with a coaching staff intent on playing him only in the last test. This done, he was drafted to the Canes to play regularly at fullback. This done, he was picked to play Argentina at outside centre. This done, he was picked in the match 22 for the Australian test. This done he was released to play for Auckland at inside centre one week and a request was made that he play outside centre last week. Now, nearly nine months after first touring with the All Blacks, the management are comfortable to give him a start at outside centre against Australia. It is part of the World Cup plan.

Biggest news for the Wallabies is Phil Waugh getting the start over George Smith.

And then there's this ugly statistic:

Wallaby coach John Connolly was satisfied he and his staff had devised some tactics for Eden Park to halt an appalling away record in the past five years.

In 17 tests against the Big Four - New Zealand, South Africa, France and England - the Wallabies had accrued a solitary victory.

"It's a damning statistic no doubt," Connolly told the Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

  • Rugby Planet preview. RP picks ABs by 10+; bookie Totalbet predicts ABs by 13 points.

  • John Drake (New Zealand Herald, ex-All Black prop) preview.

  • Ben Kimber (Sydney Morning Herald) video preview.

  • Rugby eNews preview.

  • The All Blacks vs. Wallabies test will be broadcast live online at Mediazone's Rugby Channel. Full live coverage kicks-off at 1:30 am ET early Saturday morning, August 19. Tape-delay downloads are available 2-4 after test match ends. Cost is $7.99.

  • Finally, SMH chief rugby correspondent Greg Growden reports:

    I'm not scarey, says Collins

    All Blacks coach Graham Henry believes the Wallabies are scared of him. The Wallabies say they're not. The man himself laughs it all off, believing it has more to do with his rough and ready appearance. [...]

    "I usually have a beer with the Wallabies players after the Test, and it's probably because every time I drink with them, I end up buying them a beer," Collins said. "That probably helps. Still, it is great to get respect from your peers, and it's very humbling.

    "Then again, maybe they are going on about my looks. It just may be the case that I'm the ugliest one going around … yeah that's what it's all about."

    ps. Blacks by 6 points.


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