The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup clash between Australia and New Zealand kicks off in a rare midweek fixture at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
This will be the first time a Rugby Championship Test match will take place not during the regular weekend time slot as the trans-Tasman rivals go head-to-head for both trophies.
The trans-Tasman rivals have, however, played a mid-week Bledisloe Cup Test before when the Wallabies beat the All Blacks 20-16 at the Sydney Football Stadium back in 1994.
The match is famous for George Gregan’s last-ditch tackle on Jeff Wilson to secure victory for the Aussies.
The Rugby Championship returns on Thursday this week when Australia hosts New Zealand in Melbourne for the first Bledisloe Cup match this year.
Australia goes into the match off a loss, while New Zealand goes into the match from a strong win over Argentina. New Zealand beat Argentina 53-3, while Australia lost 8-24 to South Africa.
On Saturday Argentina host South Africa in Buenos Aires. Los Pumas have won two of their last four Tests on home turf against the Springboks.
New Zealand leads the Rugby Championship standings on 10 points, closely followed by South Africa, Australia, and Argentina one point behind.
All three of the latter teams have 9 points but South Africa is placed second due to their points differential.
As only one point separates all four teams, bonus points (including losing bonus points) will go a long way in deciding the final placings in this year’s championship.
Don’t forget the first Rugby Championship match this week is on Thursday.
Australia v New Zealand Rugby Championship Round 5 Preview
Australia and New Zealand’s trans-Tasman clash at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne is a sell-out.
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has confirmed his side for the Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks.
Rennie has wrung the changes for this must-win trans-Tasman contest, making eight changes to the team that lost to South Africa in Sydney.
Bernard Foley earns a recall after Noah Lolesio was ruled out because of a concussion. Foley will play his first game under Rennie and first for Australia since 2019.
Foley is joined by NSW Waratahs scrumhalf Jake Gordon, who starts for the first time in 2022, pushing Nic White back to the bench.
“It’s great to have Bernard’s experience and he brings plenty of voice and passion for the gold jersey,” Rennie said following the team announcement.
“New Zealand showed their class in a massive win over Argentina last week, and will come to Melbourne full of confidence.”
Gordon’s Waratahs teammate Lalakai Foketi partners Len Ikitau in the midfield after Hunter Paisami failed to overcome his head knock.
Andrew Kellaway has been elevated from the bench and selected to start at fullback in place of Reece Hodge.
Kellaway is joined in the back three by Tom Wright and Marika Koroibete, who will play his 50th Test for the Wallabies, with Hodge reverting to the bench.
Meanwhile, in the forwards, it’s an all-Victorian-born back row as Rob Leota and Pete Samu earn call-ups to the starting side, joining Rob Valetini at No 8.
Jed Holloway shifts to lock, filling the gap left by Rory Arnold after he was unavailable for selection.
James Slipper once again captains the side in Michael Hooper’s absence, taking him to outright third on the list of most-capped Wallabies behind George Gregan (139) and Stephen Moore (129).
Dave Porecki swaps with Folau Fainga’a at hooker. Melbourne Rebels prop Pone Fa’amausili comes onto the bench after a calf injury to Taniela Tupou.
Darcy Swain and Fraser McReight join Fa’amausili and Tupou on the sideline. Jordan Petaia completes the bench alongside Hodge and White.
“We’re well aware of the opportunity in front of us over the next fortnight and we’re extremely motivated to make the most of it,” Rennie added.
New Zealand powers up for the Trans-Tasman showdown by bolstering the pack for the Bledisloe opener down under.
All Blacks selectors Ian Foster, Joe Schmidt, and Jason Ryan have announced their match-day 23.
The unavailability of Ardie Savea (impending childbirth) and Shannon Frizell (ribs) forced the coaches to make two changes to the back row.
Sam Cane will lead the visitors in a loose forward trio which has undergone forced changes for Thursday’s Bledisloe One Test.
Scott Barrett has been selected as blindside flanker, while Hoskins Sotutu is set to feature at number eight for what will be his 11th Test (and first of the 2022 season).
Barrett’s move to the side of the scrum sees 96-Test lock Brodie Retallick brought back into the run-on side where he will re-join long-time second-row partner Samuel Whitelock.
The backline remains unchanged after the All Blacks’ thumping fifty-burger win over Los Pumas in Hamilton.
Akira Ioane has been brought in to provide cover alongside fellow specialist loose forward Dalton Papali’i in the only change to the replacements.
Dane Coles, from the bench, will play his 84th Test match, surpassing Andrew Hore (83) as the third most-capped Test hooker in All Blacks history behind Sean Fitzpatrick (92) and Keven Mealamu (132).
Foster said: “We can’t wait to kick off what should be a fantastic Rugby Championship Test, which doubles as the opening Bledisloe Cup clash of the year.
“We are incredibly driven to keep hold of this trophy which means so much to both countries. And when you factor in how tight this year’s Rugby Championship is, all signs point towards another great Test match here in Melbourne.”
Australia has played New Zealand 173 times since 1903. The Wallabies have won 45 matches, lost 120 times, and drawn eight matches.
The Wallabies’ 45 wins give them a low 26% winning record against the All Blacks regardless of the venue.
The Bledisloe Cup has been contested since the 1930s, with New Zealand winning the famous trophy 49 times to Australia’s 12.
The All Blacks have won the last three matches against the Wallabies and held the trophy since 2003.
Australia must win both Bledisloe Cup Tests – with the second at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 24 – to secure the trophy.
Last five results:
5 Sep 2021 – Australia 21-38 New Zealand at Optus Stadium
14 Aug 2021 – New Zealand 57-22 Australia at Eden Park
7 Aug 2021 – New Zealand 33-25 Australia at Eden Park
7 Nov 2020 – Australia 24-22 New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium
31 Oct 2020 – Australia 5-43 New Zealand at ANZ Stadium
Matches played: 173
New Zealand: 120
Played in Australia: 87
Matches played in Australia and won by Australia: 28
Draws: 8 (6 in Australia)
Match: Australia v New Zealand
Date: Thursday, 15 September
Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-off Local: 06:45 ARG/11:45 RSA/19:45 AUS [AEST]/21:45 NZ
Referee: Matthieu Raynal [FRA]
Assistant Ref 1: Andrew Brace [IRE]
Assistant Ref 2: Pierre Brousset [FRA]
TMO: Ben Whitehouse [WAL]
15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Pete Samu, 6 Rob Leota, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 David Porecki, 1 James Slipper (captain)
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea
Argentina v South Africa Rugby Championship Round 5 Preview
Jacques Nienaber puts his faith in the starting lineup that defeated Australia in Sydney as the World Champions search for Rugby Championship glory.
The Test match has been moved from Estadio Velez Sarsfield to Estadio Libertadores De América in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires.
The game was moved after Estadio Velez Sarsfield’s pitch did not meet the necessary conditions for an international fixture.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber named an unchanged starting team for their must-win Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Avellaneda on Saturday, with the coach making only three changes to the replacements.
The ‘Bomb Squad’ sees loose forward Elrigh Louw taking over from Duane Vermeulen on the bench at No 8. Faf de Klerk returns as scrumhalf cover in place of Cobus Reinach, and Andre Esterhuizen gets a run in place of Warrick Gelant.
With New Zealand on 10 points, and the Springboks, Australia, and Argentina trailing by only one point each on nine points.
The Boks are currently in second place on the standings due to a favourable points difference but will need to win both matches and hope for Australia and New Zealand to take a game off each other for glory.
Nienaber said: “We were in a fortunate position this week not to have any injuries, which allowed us the luxury of selecting the same starting team that ran out in our last match, and we also feel that this team offers us what we need against a physical Argentina outfit.
“Our first victory in Australia since 2013 gave us a lot of confidence, and I have no doubt that will boost the players’ confidence going into this match, but that said, we are expecting a bruising and intense battle against Argentina in front of a hostile crowd, and we have seen in the past how much confidence they draw from their fans at home.”
Commenting on the changes among the replacements.
Nienaber said: “Our plan from the outset was to give a few players a chance to prove what they can do and to build their Test experience, especially with the Rugby World Cup a year away, and there is no better opportunity to do so than in a match which, essentially, amounts to a semi-final for us if we want to win the tournament.
He added: “We have fantastic depth within our squad with younger and more experienced players, and it requires a fine balancing act to select a squad that we think will be the best team for each match, while at the same time allowing most of the players to play.”
Zoning in on the match against Argentina, Nienaber said they expected a hard grind.
“It’s always tough to play in Argentina,” said the 49-year-old.
“They are a passionate rugby nation, and the Pumas will never give an inch and they also draw a lot of energy from their enthusiastic home crowd, so we are expecting a huge battle.
“They place a lot of emphasis on their physicality and set pieces, and they have skilful backs as well, so they will test us in all departments.”
Argentina coach Michael Cheika ring the changes for this important clash against South Africa.
Cheika decided to change both props, with Eduardo Bello introduced at loosehead and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro at tighthead as Thomas Gallo and Joel Scalvi drop to the bench.
There are two more changes in the pack with Matias Alemanno recalled at lock and Juan Martin Gonzalez picked at blindside.
Alemanno will partner with yellow-card specialist Tomas Lavanini, who will need to keep a cool head in such an important fixture.
Gonzalo Bertranou gets the nod ahead of Tomas Cubelli at scrumhalf, with Jeronimo De La Fuente returning from injury at outside centre and Lucio Cinti picked on the left wing.
Bertranou, Cinti, Gonzalez and Alemanno all started in the Pumas’ historic first-ever win over the All Blacks in New Zealand three weeks ago.
But all three were then dropped to the bench the following week after Argentina recorded their worst defeat to the three-time world champions since joining the Rugby Championship.
Los Pumas are five points behind the All Blacks, who earned a controversial and dubious last-gasp 39-37 win in Australia on Thursday night following a refereeing meltdown.
But all four sides can still win the competition, but New Zealand is in the pound seats going into their second Bledisloe Cup match in Auckland at Eden Park.
Eden Park is a fortress. Australia has not won in the City of Sails since 1986 and the Kiwis have not lost a Test at the famous old ground since 1994.
“It is up to us to keep The Rugby Championship open and alive,” said Australian Cheika after making seven changes to his team.
Two weeks ago, Argentina suffered their heaviest-ever Rugby Championship defeat to the All Blacks, a week after recording their first-ever victory in New Zealand.
Cheika insisted there will be no hangover from their 50-point hiding.
“When we got back to work at the start of the week, everyone had a good attitude, very positive and concentrated on the strategy for the game,” he said.
“It will be important to impose our way of playing. South Africa is a lot different to play against than Australia and New Zealand. It will be a different dynamic.”
The Springboks have dominated Los Pumas down the years, but Argentina has managed to bloody South Africa’s nose in recent times.
Argentina has played South Africa 32 times, and the Pumas have won three matches, lost 28 times, and drawn once.
The Pumas’ three wins give them a poor 9% winning record in their matches against the Springboks regardless of the venue.
South Africa has won the last four matches against Argentina; however, the Springboks have lost two of their last four Tests to Los Pumas in South America.
Last five results:
21 Aug 2021 – Argentina 10-29 South Africa at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
14 Aug 2021 – South Africa 32-12 Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
17 Aug 2019 – South Africa 24-18 Argentina at Pretoria
10 Aug 2019 – Argentina 13-46 South Africa at Salta
25 Aug, 2018 – Argentina 32-19 South Africa at Mendoza
Matches played: 32
South Africa: 28
Played in Argentina: 16
Matches played in Argentina and won by Argentina: 2
Draws: 1 (Argentina)
Match: Argentina v South Africa
Date: Saturday, 17 September
Venue: Estadio Libertadores De América, Avellaneda (Buenos Aires)
Kick-off Local: 16:05 ARG/21:05 RSA/ 05:05 AUS [AEST Sunday 18]/07:05 NZ [Sunday 18]
Referee: James Doleman [NZ]
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy [AUS]
Assistant Ref 2: Craig Evans [WAL]
TMO: Chris Hart [NZ]
15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Matias Moroni
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Elrigh Louw, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Frans Steyn