Lost 26, won 0. Zero. Zerooooooooo.
That’s this year’s woeful record for Australian Super Rugby teams against their Kiwi opposition. In all fairness, we could leave it there with this preview and get back to our holidays.
A new born baby seal would have a better shot at beating a polar bear in a bareknuckle cage match. An arthritic sloth would have a better shot at outracing Usain Bolt. You (yes, you!) are more likely to vanquish all evil in this messed up world using just your wits and a ball of yarn, than the Wallabies are likely to beat the All Blacks. Still, no one can accuse Blood & Mud for shirking away from its duties, so let’s give you the rundown of Bledisloe 1 in preview.
First up is the darkened, foul smelling hangover shit-show that is the Wallabies. Without even mentioning the on-field dross served up by the Aussies, the ARU’s approach to the sacking of the Western Force from Super Rugby makes the WRU look like a secretive cabal capable of running the world economy.
Not to go into details here, we can do that when this whole tragedy has been resolved, but suffice to say that it’s been all any rugby fan from the land down under has been able to talk about for the past week. The chat has not been positive. Add that to fitness concerns, an underwhelming June series and the aforementioned abysmal Super Rugby record this year, and you’ve got a team that looks like road kill ready for the meat grinder.
It’s not all apocalyptic though: one shiny, delicious cherry in this steaming pile of wombat diarrhoea is the return of Kurtley Beale, who looks set to fill the gap left by Matt Giteau after the last World Cup. His Hot ‘n Cold combo with Foley worked well for the last team coached by Cheika, and could possibly bring back a little attacking flair to the Wallabies’ game. Israel Folau meanwhile will look to build upon his recent try scoring form in the Gold jersey and will relish his continued battle with Ben Smith for the title of best fullback in world rugby.
The All Blacks will come into this game as the overwhelming favourites, but not everything is sunshine and rainbows for them either. They were not their dominant selves against the Lions in their second and third tests and they will not come into this tournament buoyed by an amazing winning streak like they did last year. On the flipside, that means they’ll be coming into this game looking to make a big statement for the rest of the tournament.
On a related note, Sonny Bill Williams being cleared to play this match after copping a four match ban for turning Anthony Watson’s face into a pancake with his shoulder is a fucking travesty. For those amongst us who have not heard yet, an “appeal panel independent of World Rugby” has declared that two practice halves of the ABs against two provincial teams counts as an official match for the purpose of the ban. Which means his ban ends right before the Championship starts. How convenient. We’re not saying there’re any illegal shenanigans going on here, but this whole affair has left a more than foul taste in our mouths. We digress.
All this (admittedly vaguely related stuff I really wanted to rant about) considered, we expect the Kiwis to comfortable roll up Australia with a bonus point. The only thing they’re missing, as the Lions series proved, is a reliable goal kicker, and who really needs one of those when you’ve got Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick, Ben Smith and all the other Terminators on field ready to turn their opposition into a bloody pulp laced with tears of shame?
B&M Prediction: New Zealand by 15 points.
Spotter’s Badge: Izzy Folau leaps into the air like a salmon, claims the high ball, then continues going upwards to join his kind among the stars, leaving behind many perplexed human beings, and possibly some demi-god offspring, all while muttering to himself: “This team’s fucked, this planet’s fucked. Fuck this shit. I’m out.”
Australia: Israel Folau, Henry Speight, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Curtis Rona, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Lopeti Timani, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge, Tevita Kuridrani
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Luke Romano, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown