Analysis can only take pundits so far when it comes to Bledisloe Cup games between the All Blacks and Australia, and the home team’s desire to end their losses in the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship will add an edge to their rivalry in Melbourne on Saturday.
Match Details: Australia v New Zealand, 9.45 pm NZT, July 29, 2023, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Won: Australia 45, New Zealand 122, Drawn 8
Last time: Australia 14-40 New Zealand, September 24, 2022, Eden Park
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Australia, having lost their first two games of the Rugby Championship, is looking to avoid only its second winless tournament. They were winless earlier when losing four games in the Tri-Nations in 2005. New Zealand have won both their games this year in the Championship and their last five games against Australia.
It’s a measure of the developing depth in the All Blacks’ locking ranks that the stock market hasn’t plummeted, and the country hasn’t gone into a spin cycle with returning veteran Sam Whitelock coming off the bench for the 23rd time in his 144 Test career on Saturday. Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett are the starters in Melbourne, with Retallick playing his 102nd Test and Barrett making his 61st appearance. Coach Ian Foster said, “It’s a great situation to be in.” Retaining the pair was also a reward for the growing combination seen against South Africa, and he wanted to keep growing that. A lot of attention was paid to who might lock the scrum, but the three named were backed by Josh Lord and Tupou Va’ai, who had also been performing well.
First five-eighths Carter Gordon’s first Test start will be a little more relaxed than his Test debut when replacing centre Len Ikitau against Argentina in Sydney two weeks back, a position he was not used to playing. He will be looking for his forward pack to give him the quality ball necessary for him to get control of the game. The lessons from those first two losses have been hit home. “Our breakdown wasn’t where we needed it to be. We had a lot of breakdown errors, a lot of turnovers. So the last few weeks have been making sure what we’re really smashing down on that detail at the breakdown, and we’ve been working pretty hard at that. We want to make sure we’re not leaving any stone unturned. We want to make sure we’ve got no regrets. Test match rugby is very different to Super Rugby. It’s a lot more territory based. And we know that, so we’re going to do everything we can to win these contests.”
The All Blacks have managed an attacking ruck speed of 2.96 seconds during the Championship, the best of the four teams, while Australia at 3.61s was the slowest. Australia has also made the fewest entries (10) into the opposing 22m area of the four teams but has achieved four points for each entry which is the most effective of the tour teams.
New Zealand have won nine games in succession and has lost away from home only once since the loss to South Africa in Mbombela at the start of its 2022 campaign. A win would be only the second time they have been unbeaten in the Championship or Tri Nations in a World Cup year. The last occasion was in 2003. (Opta)
TEAMS (caps in brackets):
1. Ethan de Groot (15) 2. Codie Taylor (78) 3. Tyrel Lomax (25) 4. Brodie Retallick (101) 5. Scott Barrett (60) 6. Shannon Frizell (27) 7. Dalton Papali’i (24) 8. Ardie Savea (72 – captain) 9. Aaron Smith (116) 10. Richie Mo’unga (46) 11. Mark Telea (3) 12. Jordie Barrett (50) 13. Rieko Ioane (61) 14. Will Jordan (22) 15. Beauden Barrett (114)
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (22) 17. Ofa Tu’ungfasi (51) 18. Nepo Laulala (47) 19. Samuel Whitelock (143) 20. Luke Jacobson (12) 21. Cam Roigard * 22. Anton Lienert-Brown (60) 23. Caleb Clarke (17)
1. Angus Bell (21) 2. David Porecki (12) 3. Allan Alaalatoa (acting captain) (66)
4. Nick Frost (10) 5. Will Skelton (26) 6. Jed Holloway (11) 7. Tom Hooper (1) 8. Rob Valetini (32) 9. Tate McDermott (23) 10. Carter Gordon (2) 11. Marika Koroibete (53) 12. Samu Kerevi (43) 13. Jordan Petaia (25) 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase (4) 15. Andrew Kellaway (21)
Reserves: 16. Jordan Uelese (17) 17. James Slipper (129) 18. Taniela Tupou (47) 19. Richie Arnold (2) 20. Rob Leota (14) 21. Nic White (61) 22. Quade Cooper (78) 23. Izaia Perese (3)
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.