New-look Wallabies 'can knock over' buoyant All Blacks: Rennie

·4-min read

Coach Dave Rennie is confident a new-look Australia can get one hand on the elusive Bledisloe Cup with victory over New Zealand in Melbourne on Thursday, but warned the Wallabies must be at their best.

To bring home the silverware from New Zealand for the first time since 2002, the Wallabies will need to win at Docklands Stadium before repeating the feat at Eden Park in Auckland nine days later.

It is a huge task for Rennie's inconsistent side, who were handed a brutal 24-8 wake-up call by South Africa in Sydney 10 days ago after beating the world champions a week earlier in Adelaide.

New Zealand have also lacked consistency this season, but will go into the clash full of confidence after unleashing their most complete 80 minutes of 2022 in Hamilton to crush Argentina 53-3 after four defeats in their previous six Tests.

It left the All Blacks top of a tight Rugby Championship race with two games to play, one point ahead of Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

The Springboks face the wounded Pumas in Buenos Aires on Saturday, buoyed by their battling win over the Wallabies, before a return leg in Durban.

Rennie has made eight changes to his starting side, but believes they have what it takes to upset New Zealand.

"I think everything that has happened prior to this counts for little, it's going to be about our ability to perform at our best and we need to be at our best to have a chance against the All Blacks," he said.

"We are confident we can knock over anyone, but we have to play at our best and force the All Blacks to be below their best."

He pointed to Australia needing to dominate the collision area and was wary of the New Zealand lineout with veteran lock Brodie Retallick starting his first game since fracturing a cheekbone against Ireland.

"Obviously Brodie Retallick is back in the mix and Scott Barrett has been a big performer for them. It gives them a powerful lineout," he said.

To counter the All Blacks pack, Rennie gives Jed Holloway a first start at lock, partnering Matt Philip in the second row.

Rob Leota returns at blindside flanker while Pete Samu earns his first start of the 2022 campaign at openside, with Rob Valetini at No.8. David Porecki is preferred at hooker to Folau Fainga'a.

Rennie is also hoping Bernard Foley can help dictate the game, with the veteran fly-half picked for the first time since the 2019 World Cup after Noah Lolesio was ruled out with concussion.

- 'Primed and ready' -

Along with Retallick, who brings 96 caps of experience, All Blacks coach Ian Foster made one other change, with Hoskins Sotutu replacing dynamic No.8 Ardie Savea who remained at home for the birth of his third child.

Retallick will link up with long-time second row partner Sam Whitelock with Scott Barrett moving to outside flanker in place of Shannon Frizell, who suffered a rib injury against the Pumas.

"I think the consistency we've been demanding ... we really feel we're getting there," Foster told reporters.

"This week, like the other ones, we've been training well, we're primed and ready to go.

"It's a big game in the Rugby Championship, everyone is on the same starting line, so with two rounds to go it's a big weekend to make a bit of a statement."

New Zealand have won 16 of their last 20 Tests against Australia, including the last three, and Foster added that they were "incredibly driven" to hold on to the Bledisloe Cup.

Fullback Jordie Barrett said the All Blacks would need to adapt to Australia playing at speed with quick ball from the breakdown, presenting a different challenge to that posed by Argentina.

"There'll be trends that we are looking to test Australia with through their defence but if they present something completely different that we haven't planned for, we have got to be able to adapt on the run," he said.

Australia (15-1): Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Rob Leota; Matt Philip, Jed Holloway; Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (capt)

Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Pone Fa'amausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

New Zealand (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (capt), Scott Barrett; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ethan de Groot.

Replacements: Dane Coles, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Aikira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.