Changes On The Back Of Injuries
New Zealand Rugby’s hand has been forced by injuries once more. This time in the way of its backline ahead of Saturday’s 3rd Bledisloe Cup clash. Lima Sopoaga has been selected to take the place of Beauden Barret, with Waisake Naholo earmarked to play in the stead of Nehe Milner-Skudder who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Saturday’s cup will be a first for Sopoaga, who will be running out part of the opening fifteen for the first time since having played his test match debut. Saturday’s test will be Naholo’s 14th test match for the All Blacks.
Sopoaga will be bearing the brunt of the pressure on Saturday, with star player and pillar of support Barrett having to sit out as a result of concussion issues. Barrett suffered a concussive knock-on in a recent match against South Africa and despite having been cleared to play, has been sidelined by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Hansen has stuck with his original team on all other counts.
Wallabies Squad Almost Unchanged
The Wallabies have made one change to their own starting line-up, also as a result of injuries. Lock Izack Rodda will be replaced by veteran lock Rob Simmons. Rodda will be out for the count as result of surgery after having suffered a season-terminating injury to the shoulder. Lakhan Tuii will be waiting on the bench as an extra safety measure.
Hansen Positive But Not Complacent
Hansen had said that he expected a desperate Australian side on Saturday, and that this wasn’t necessarily a thing of comfort. Australia has not managed to defeat the All Blacks in a Bledisloe Cup stand-off in two years, but did manage a solid second place in the Rugby Championships and will be out to prove a few points on Saturday at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
This may be exactly the combination of wildcards playing it up in Hansen’s head. Speaking to the press, the All Blacks coach said that his team still had a lot to improve on and that one should never become overly complacent for expecting the win, and that winning one match wasn’t all that being a champion was about.
He said that Saturday’s clash would be a great opportunity for a relatively young team to showcase what they had learnt throughout the year, and that playing at Suncorp would be the perfect venue to do so as it is a venue that is full of tradition.
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