New Zealand return to the scene of their World Cup triumph on Saturday morning when they host Australia in the second round of The Rugby Championship, kick off 8.35am (Irish time.)
The All Blacks kicked off their season last weekend with a far from perfect 27-19 against the Wallabies last weekend which saw Dan Carter lead the way with the boot scoring 17 points for his side.
Coming into this weekend the All Blacks are not without their injury concerns as they look to defend a twenty five year unbeaten record against Australia in Eden Park.
Coach Steve Hansen will have to plan without Tony Woodcock for Saturday’s encounter having suffered a rib injury in the win last weekend.
Hansen’s counterpart, Robbie Deans has suffered a big blow with the loss of inspirational David Pocok in the backrow. Michael Hooper will take over the No 7 jersey in the absence of Pocok.
Deans also welcomes back both Adam-Ashely Cooper and Drew Mitchell from injury along with the highly talented Quade Cooper slotting in at No 10, while Kurtley Beale paid the price for a poor performance last weekend, missing out on the starting XV.
Having lost at home to the All Blacks one would think that Australia will be the more determined team come kick off. The loss of Pocock is a huge disadvantage as he is one of the few players that is on a par with New Zealand’s wrecking ball, known better as Richie McCaw.
That breakdown area will be key and if New Zealand can establish a foothold in that aspect of the game they have the backs that can cause damage to any defence in the world.
For Australia to win they could almost take a leaf out of Ireland’s book when they went, oh so close, to defeating New Zealand back in June.
If the Wallabies can dictate the early pace of the game, win the early physical and mental exchanges, New Zealand have proven in the past that they can be defeated.
It promises to be a highly entertaining matchup, with the vote going to the defending World Cup champions to maintain their undefeated record at Eden Park and retain the Bledisloe Cup. New Zealand to win.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.