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Everything on line as Wallabies and All Blacks clash at Suncorp

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The Tri-Nations series of 2008 will be decided on Saturday night in Brisbane in the final match of the tournament. With New Zealand on 14 points and Australia on 13, it is a simple matter of the victor of the match will be the winner of the series. Adding more to the already fiery clash, the Bledisloe Cup may or may not also be decided on the game. A win for New Zealand would wrap up the Trans-Tasman trophy for them, with the final game in Hong Kong becoming a dead rubber exhibition match. However, if the Wallabies find a win in Brisbane, they still have to knock over the All Blacks in Hong Kong or the trophy stays with the men in black, who won it last year. So this weekend’s match is the most important of the year for both teams.

Trying to predict a winner is complicated by the fact that this year has seen quite a tumultuous set of results in the Tri-Nations tournament. South Africa managed to win away in New Zealand and looked favourites to win the series, only to crumble in two consecutive home games and finish last on the table, but still managed to inflict a devastating defeat over Australia in their last clash. And New Zealand who looked quite weak in the first half of the series, mounted a comeback with the return of captain Richie McCaw and now sit on top of the ladder. While Australia have been highly inconsistent, with two impressive home wins leveled out by two horrible losses playing away. But in the end it all comes down to the final game of the tournament between the cross-Tasman rivals. 

On paper, the All Blacks look to be the team to choose. Consistency with player combinations is often the key in these type of matches, and by sticking with the same roster that defeated the Springboks in Cape Town, the All Blacks will be confident in their team cohesiveness. Add to that the factor of captain Richie McCaw, who was at the centre of the mid-tournament turnaround by the team, New Zealand look as very strong favourites for taking the match.

The Wallabies will be a much less settled camp than their rivals. With the record loss to the Springboks in their last match, the Australian’s will be feeling the repercussions as the search for what went wrong will no doubt be the cause of a few changes in the team and their game-plan. Timana Tahu and Tatafu Polota-Nau are the main casualties, both dropped from the team altogether, while Phil Waugh, Hugh McMeniman and Matt Dunning have been relegated to the bench. This gives Ryan Cross, Stephen Moore, George Smith, Nathan Sharpe and Al Baxter all a spot in the starting side. With Berrick Barnes still injured, coach Robbie Deans is gambling on putting Stirling Mortlock into inside centre and back up flyhalf, positions he has not played before internationally. This pairs him up with another strong runner of the ball, Ryan Cross, in the centres and could be a clever tactic in controlling the midfield and putting pressure on Dan Carter.

The match at Ellis Park two weeks ago could affect the Wallaby mentality in two ways: it could cause doubts to set in or it could fire them up to restore their pride. And with the prospects of winning their first Tri-Nations since 2001 and getting closer to the Bledisloe Cup, as well is the game being at home, the Wallabies could have a very good chance of beating the more favoured All Blacks.

 

Outside the Frame prediction: Australia by 6

 

Wallaby Squad:

Run on: Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Al Baxter, James Horwill, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom, George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Sam Cordingley, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri, Stirling Mortlock (c), Ryan Cross, Peter Hynes, Adam Ashley-Cooper. Reserves: Adam Freier, Matt Dunning, Hugh McMeniman, Phil Waugh, Richard Brown, Brett Sheehan, Drew Mitchell.

 

All Black Squad:

Run on: Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Greg Somerville, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Rodney So’oialo, Jimmy Cowan, Dan Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Richard Kahui, Mils Muliaina. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa/Neemia Tialata, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald, Isaia Toeava.

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Written by Dale Weber

Saturday, 13 September, 2008 at 12:59 pm

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