Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the second Bledisloe Cup Test of the year. The All Blacks v the Wallabies gets underway at a packed Eden Park at 4pm local time 2pm AEDT.
If we get a contest half as gripping as last week’s series opener in Wellington then we’re in for a treat. Last Sunday’s draw set the stage for a new era for this longstanding rivalry with Dave Rennie taking the game to New Zealand in his first match in charge of the Wallabies, and Ian Foster overseeing a strangely subdued performance in his first afternoon in the All Blacks hotseat.
Both coaches have shuffled their packs ahead of the second encounter with Rennie eager to fix a couple of glaring weaknesses at the lineout and breakdown, while Foster benefits from the return of superstar Beauden Barrett; the All Blacks were diminished without his ability to help Richie Mo’unga control play.
Despite Australia’s performance last weekend the All Blacks will again start as clear favourites. The Wallabies haven’t won at Eden Park since 1986, losing their last five Tests at the venue by an average of 30 points. New Zealand couldn’t have picked a better venue to prove a point.
How they go about proving that point seems likely to involve a more physical performance. Assistant coach John Plumtree bemoaned some of Australia’s tactics in Bledisloe I, taking aim at the performance of referee Paul Williams. “There were some late charges, you guys saw all that,” Plumtree said, “and there were one or two other incidents, but All Blacks don’t cry – we just get on with it; we adjust to how the game is being refereed, and that’s in every department.” Somewhat disproving his own theory, Plumtree then went on to suggest with further comments that he was unable to just get on with it.
Those remarks arrived after former Wallabies and big chunks of Australian media spent 89 minutes of last week’s contest slamming Williams and his touch judges for their decision making. The modern tradition of international rugby that determines neither side is ever happy with the performance of a whistleblower responsible for administering the most Byzantine laws is incredibly tedious.
Thankfully, Rennie chose not to escalate the situation. “In my opinion, we don’t need to air that sort of stuff through the media,” he said. “And why would we do that? Are we trying to influence the referee for the next game and that sort of thing. You’ve got an opportunity to go straight to the referee, so I’m not sure if he’s appealing to the masses. I’m a little bit surprised by those comments.”
Ok, that’s all from me for a bit. I’ll be back with teams and some more talking points soon. In the meantime, if you want to get in touch, you can reach me via Twitter or email, or chat amongst yourselves below the line.