The Tight Five: What we know ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup match
James Mortimer 15 Aug 2014 Getty Images
Not merely The Investec Rugby Championship, but for New Zealand there is the major matter of extending their Bledisloe Cup run to 12 years.
Ben Smith’s inclusion should send shivers down other All Blacks spines
So the hearsay and speculation regarding the Highlanders fullback and his status compared to Crusaders custodian Israel Dagg can now be put aside – Smith’s form, recognised by most, has seen him nudge aside a player who was until recently the first choice New Zealand 15.
A quick examination will reveal that the All Blacks will lose some clearing ability without Dagg’s boot, but Smith is a dashing player who inserts himself into the line with the same aplomb as a certain Christian Cullen did in the past.
The Highlanders back is among the form players in the game, clearly to the point according to the New Zealand selectors that he must not be shifted from his preferred position.
Other players are on notice.
Wallaby selections won’t be unnoticed by All Blacks braintrust
When New Zealand was en route to their second Rugby World Cup win in 2011, the All Blacks produced a thunderous victory against the Wallabies which not only gave the hosts passage to the final, but gave some redemption after Super Rugby and Tri-Nations losses to Australian sides.
The World Champions stick to the line that they only focus on themselves, a party line that the Wallabies stick to saying that “don’t care” about the All Blacks potential 18 straight Test wins.
However the number one ranked side care quite a bit about Australia.
Many of their best victories haven’t been so much about an insular New Zealand focus, but a ruthless exploitation of Wallaby weaknesses or efficient targeting of individual players – the likes of Nathan Charles and Kurtley Beale will among the names on this list in the coming weeks.
Messam’s rest only enforces the influence of Kaino and richies at the selection table
Congratulations Steve Hansen, you have a brilliant selection conundrum when it comes to selecting your blindside flanker, not merely among the key positions when contesting the coalface – but the two senior players in question are Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam.
Both would stroll into most pundits World XV.
Messam is being rested and that is no propaganda when considering the Chiefs stalwart has played constant top level rugby while Kaino is in essence back after a ‘softer’ period of activity in Japan.
The two offer different games, Messam is as comfortable in the dark exchanges and is dynamic in the loose, while Kaino offers a power presence that is rattling and intimidating in equal measures.
Tactics could be a false dawn for the Wallabies when playing an all-court All Blacks team
It appears that Australia has put their aces on the table, signalling their intention to play an attacking game while paradoxically limiting their potential here by selecting Pat McCabe and Rob Horne on the wings – individuals noted for their defensive skills rather than their classical strike supremacy.
With no ‘first choice’ kicker in the Australian team either, Beale is not noted as a playmaker who looks to boot to the spaces, further analysis points to all-out attack.
This will not likely bother the All Blacks one iota.
The World Champions are not a team reliant on offence only, if anything they have adapted to back their defence, set piece and mental resilience that overcomes even the most enthusiastic approach.
Under the command of McCaw New Zealand can adapt, how Australia can will be one the major factors of the Test.
Records are not always meant to be broken when looking at New Zealand's ledger
It is talked about with increasing frequency with every Test that the All Blacks win, that their long period of rugby supremacy over the last decade is coming to an end – after all, no sporting dynasty lasts forever.
Yet even the hardest fan would struggle to ignore some numbers.
Hansen has guided the All Blacks to 29 wins, one draw and the solitary loss, in the process nudging the side’s winning record to 76.3% (now with 393 wins from 515 Tests).
While ANZ Stadium - a citadel for the Wallabies - has been conquered seven times by New Zealand in 13 matches, while the All Blacks have won 47 of 76 internationals in Australia (a winning ledger of over 60 percent).
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