Two new players have been introduced to the starting team, for the Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday, August 19. Liam Squire and Damian McKenzie get the nod over two veteran All Blacks, to reward great Super Rugby form (and more).
Both players have had minimal opportunities in black, so the opening Bledisloe Cup match, and the opening round of The Rugby Championship, is perfect timing. Head coach Steve Hansen made the call, to replace Jerome Kaino and Israel Dagg.
“We’ve had a great build-up here in Sydney and there’s a single-minded focus. We’re playing for our most significant trophy [outside of the Rugby World Cup]. It means a lot to us as a team.
“As always, it’s going to be a massive occasion and we’re
looking forward to Saturday.”
Bledisloe Cup Match Selection for McKenzie and Squire Great Reward
Hansen mentioned in the media release, “There’s a real sense of excitement within the group and a desire to go out and perform well this weekend. This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions Tour.
The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:
1. Joe Moody (28)
2. Codie Taylor (19)
3. Owen Franks (94)
4. Brodie Retallick (64)
5. Samuel Whitelock (88)
6. Liam Squire (9)
7. Sam Cane (44)
8. Kieran Read (100) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (62)
10. Beauden Barrett (53)
11. Rieko Ioane (5)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (36)
13. Ryan Crotty (27)
14. Ben Smith (62)
15. Damian McKenzie (2)
16. Nathan Harris (8)
17. Wyatt Crockett (62)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (4)
19. Luke Romano (26)
20. Ardie Savea (16)
21. TJ Perenara (33)
22. Lima Sopoaga (7)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (13)
The match is scheduled for ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Kick-off is 8.05pm (local time)
Key Talking Points – New Players to Start
Liam Squire will run out for his sixth test–his third as starting loose forward–in place of Jerome Kaino. It is a ‘changing of the guard’ with the young bull assuming the similar role to the formidable goliath, that is Kaino.
Reward for the Highlanders loose forward, who 1.96 meters, will be an option in the lineout. His speed across the ground is an additional asset for an aging All Blacks pack–and when Ardie Savea is introduced late in the game, the new players will show their worth.
The same can be said of Damian McKenzie. The Super Rugby MVP for attacking meters, a player who ‘put his hand up’ and is given his starting chance. His natural ability to run the ball back should be another asset, with support on the wing from Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane.
McKenzie Chosen as Fullback – Not First-Five
The call to wear the number 15 jersey is interesting. Argument has been made over why he was originally pointed to as the third first-five option but his utility nature is ‘too good to ignore’. So as the All Blacks did with Beauden Barrett, McKenzie is serving his apprenticeship at fullback – and should (at some point) graduate to the pivot role.
Lima Sopoaga will come in off the bench, along with Anton Lienert-Brown. That strategy may not earn McKenzie time at number 10, but right now he is the leading attack from an incredibly talented outside back group.
And the word from Nigel Yalden of RadioSport is that he believes Israel Dagg is carrying an injury. His non-selection could be to manage fitness, but the squad loses nothing in the backline. Sonny Bill Williams also returns from the suspension, to pair with Ryan Crotty. That combination looks to be the ‘number one combo’ for this reporter.
Australia Lye in Wait for Bledisloe Cup Redemption
Many Australian rugby commentators will need to search right back in their memories, to recall days when John Eales held the Bledisloe Cup. 2002 in fact. Some junior players in the NRC competition will have little memory of those days at all. Fans are certainly frustrated with the game in Australia.
Not considering the ARU boardroom issues, the Wallabies need to show that competing for the Bledisloe Cup is not a ‘random act’. They won the opening game in 2015….only to lose the final match of that year; the Rugby World Cup final. Consistency is the issue, and Super Rugby form will not help.
The only benefit was a long lead-in period of training. Possibly ‘too long’ but Michael Hooper and head coach Michael Cheika must rid themselves of the monkey, that is the Bledisloe Cup.
An Wallabies win would only rub salt into the wound for the All Blacks. Their last game was an uneasy draw against the British and Irish Lions. So an improved performance usually follows any bad one. And those are few and far in between.
The new selection for McKenzie and Squire is great reward for their domestic form. It is also a view to the future. The motivating factors of both teams this weekend, will make for a classic AUSvNZL rugby clash in Sydney.
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