The All Blacks have set several records over the last few months, most of them records they didn’t want and there’s the possibility of another going in Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup rugby clash at Eden Park in Auckland.

Saturday's All Black Lineup

Having lost three home tests in a row this year, lost to Ireland in a series for the first time and lost again to Argentina, the All Blacks will not want to lose another record, an amazing one, a 28 year-old unbeaten record at this venue.

More than half of Ian Foster’s squad weren’t even born when France beat the All Blacks there 23-20 in 1994 and they have now gone 47 tests unbeaten, the only hiccup, a controversial 15-15 draw with the Irish and British Lions in 2017. The Wallabies have lost their last 22 matches at Eden Park , their last win being way back in 1986 and the average margin of those defeats has been 18 points.

Last week’s heart-stopping 39-37 victory in Melbourne over the Wallabies which effectively sealed the coveted trophy for another year, showed off everything that is good and bad about coach Foster’s men in black.

An outstanding start was followed by an ordinary second quarter followed by a brilliant third quarter which shot them out to a 31-13 lead and that should have been that. Oh no, not this All Blacks team. Thanks to some dreadful missed tackles and some disorganised defence coupled with a resurgent and very skilful Wallabies side, they actually took the lead. That is until that contentious decision at the end which reversed an Aussie penalty, gave the All Blacks and attacking scrum feed and from there they superbly engineered the winning try to Jordie Barrett.

The Match Winner

Coach Foster has been mostly predictable in his selections this week, several players again out of their regular positions in a side with six changes from that which started last week.

Ardie Savea who many think his specialist position is seven, comes back from maternity leave to number eight despite, regular number seven and skipper Sam Cane being ruled out due to concussion.

Sam Whitelock takes over as captain, Dalton Papali’i replaces Cane at seven with Akira Ioane coming in at six, Hoskins Sotutu relegated to bench after an average display last week. Ioane produced the key over the advantage line surge to set up Barrett’s match-winning try at Marvel Stadium.

Sam Whitelock takes over the captaincy

In the backs, regular fullback Jordie Barrett moved to second five in place of the concussed David Havili and the injured Quinn Tupaea. Specialist mid-fielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck comes onto the bench.

Instead of taking the opportunity to give Will Jordan a long overdue crack at his specialist fullback position, Foster has put usual first-five Beauden Barrett there.

Lots of movement on the bench where experienced props Of a Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala return, Tyrel Lomas and Ethan de Groot starting.

Standout hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho drops to the bench making way for Codie Taylor, Dane Coles out of the 23.

Also back on the bench, winger Sevu Reece and lock Tupou Vaa’i, both overdue for some test action.

Australia should be fired up for this one and take some confidence into the clash after last week’s brilliant comeback, that’s if they have stopped blaming referee Mathieu Raynal for their defeat.

Coach Dave Rennie has made minimal changes with lock Darcy Swain suspended for six matches after his cheap and nasty season-ending shot of Tupaea.

Harry Wilson comes in replacing injured flanker Rob Leota, another big man in what was a very impressive Aussie loose-forward trio in Melbourne led by former Tasman Mako and Crusader Pete Sam and barnstorming number eight Rob Valetini.

Harry Wilson on the charge

Bernard Foley, who probably cost his team victory last week with his time wasting in kicking the ball into touch from a late penalty. His defence was also terrible but his game management and goal-kicking were top shelf.

Usually you would pick the All Blacks to win this test, to be played in front of a sell-out crowd in Auckland, by a comfortable margin. However there’s nothing normal about this All Blacks team nor the Wallabies side which on their day can beat anyone and on another day be terrible.

If the All Blacks can play with the intensity and accuracy they did during the opening stages last week for most of the match and considerably improve their defence and decision making, I’m picking a convincing win.

I Would also love to see halfback Aaron Smith get back his running game because at present he is no challenge for opposition defences and the All Blacks need that attacking option added to their arsenal.

If the All Blacks aren’t on their game this Wallabies team, despite their poor win record are still capable of adding another record to coach Ian Foster’s reign in charge.

Interview & Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.


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