After a weekend off for the two teams, the All Blacks travel to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to take on the Wallabies for the third Bledisloe Cup match of 2012. The All Blacks have already beaten Australia in the previous two tests, ensuring the cup stays in New Zealand for another year. However, the game is far from a dead rubber. The All Blacks sit on a 16 match winning streak. Only the Wallabies and Scotland stand in their way of owning the record for most consecutive test wins by a tier one nation. The Wallabies would love the opportunity to halt New Zealand’s progress.
IRB World Standings take on extra importance over the next month, with the seeding for the 2015 Rugby World Cup decided following the Northern Hemisphere tours. A win over New Zealand would help Australia ensure a top four spot. New Zealand also won’t lack for motivation. Not only does a victory equal the winning test sequence record, but hooker Keven Mealamu will play his 100th test match, becoming only the third All Black to do so.
As such, Mealamu has returned to the starting lineup, swapping places with Andrew Hore. Charlie Faumuina swaps places with tighthead Owen Franks, giving Faumuina his first test start. Victor Vito takes back his bench position from Adam Thompson, with Liam Messam holding on to the number six jersey. After an impressive comeback against South Africa, Hosea Gear retains the wing spot for another wing, keeping Julian Savea on the sidelines.
Lock Nathan Sharpe has once again answered his country’s call, postponing his retirement to captain the side on the end of year tour. Sharpe, Australia’s most capped forward ever, provides much needed experience to this young team. Fortunately the Wallabies welcome back invaluable number eight Wycliff Palu, who comes straight back into the starting fifteen. After missing the Argentina game following a nasty head knock against South Africa, Adam Ashley-Cooper also returns, this time on the wing allowing Ben Tapuai to stay at centre. Scott Higginbotham has also forced his way back onto the blindside flank. Perpetually injured wing Drew Mitchell makes another comeback, starting from the bench.
Dangerous winger Digby Ioane was ruled out earlier in the week with a knee injury.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen lost his father this week, so Ian Foster will coach the All Blacks in his absence.
Wallabies Team to play All Blacks:
Mike Harris, Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Kane Douglas, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Drew Mitchell.
All Blacks Team to play Wallabies:
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Cory Jane, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 6. Liam Messam, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Brodie Retallick, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 2. Keven Mealamu, 1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.