9 Oct 2020

Young guns set for All Blacks debut as day time test rugby returns

8:00 am on 9 October 2020

The All Blacks and Wallabies resume their Bledisloe Cup rivalry on Sunday and the teams are named this morning, with several debutants set to be unleashed.

Caleb Clarke, All Blacks public training session, Whakatane, 2020.

Caleb Clarke, All Blacks public training session, Whakatane, 2020. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020 www.photosport.nz

The match has an afternoon kickoff, and brings back memories of the last time a day time Bledisloe Cup clash was held in Wellington.

That fateful day in 2000 is hard to forget for New Zealand fans, with the image of Wallabies captain and lock John Eales kicking the winning penalty to keep the Bledisloe in Australia burnt into many retinas.

All Blacks centurion lock Sam Whitelock remembers it all too well.

"It's hard to forget that John Eales kick. Obviously being a lock I can't kick to save myself, so I've always thought it would be pretty awesome to be able to step up on the big stage like that and go and do it. But I can't say I've tried kicking since then, so..."

Whitelock isn't confident he could emulate Eales feat under pressure, but what about if the All Blacks are leading by 30 points with time up on the clock.

"No, no, I'm not kicking. I'm pretty keen to stay away from any kind of kicking."

Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Jack Goodhue on the bench as the All Blacks lose to England.

Photo: Photosport

And while that game was 20 years ago, Whitelock says there's a key lesson the current crop can take from that last gasp loss.

"I remember it being a tight affair and they got an opportunity right at the end to take the game and the took every opportunity they were given. That's something for us this week, is to make sure we don't leave it to the last play to seal it or leave it in the referee's hands to make a decision."

The test in Wellington is the first for the All Blacks new coach Ian Foster and the Wallabies new mentor, New Zealander Dave Rennie.

Neither side has played for almost a year and Foster says Sunday's match will be the "huge" test for both men.

"We've probably got the same difficulties as them. They've watched out domestic comp and we've watched theirs, but our players haven't played against each other. We've got two new coaching groups, some new players, a disrupted year and a little bit of the unknown, so that makes it a huge test on both sides."

While unsure exactly what's coming their way, Foster is expecting the Wallabies to be incredibly physical, relish the confrontation off the ball, slow down the All Blacks at the breakdown and employ a vastly different game plan under Rennie and his new assistants, who have taken over from Michael Cheika.

"Do we have an idea? We can second guess what sort of things they're after. They've got a new coaching group, a bit of English background, a bit of Scottish background and a bit of Kiwi background. It's an unusual mix for an Australian team so we've just got to figure them out."

Foster is set to hand debuts to several young stars, including Tupou Vaai, with the 20-year-old two metre tall, 118 kilogram lock likely to come off the bench behind Whitelock and Patrick Tuipulotu.

New All Blacks Tupou Vaai, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan and Hoskins Sotutu. All Blacks team naming, NZ Rugby House, Wellington, New Zealand, Sunday 6th September 2020. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

Vaai only has one season of Super Rugby under his belt, but hooker Codie Taylor has been impressed with what he's seen.

"I didn't even know who he was at the start of the season and he's come on in leaps and bounds. You've seen him run around, he's not the smallest bloke haha. He's got that Patrick Tuipulotu size about him and his physicality and presence. He's only 20 years old so that's a bit scary."

Another scary prospect for the Wallabies is facing blockbusting 21-year-old Blues wing Caleb Clarke, who's tipped to make his debut in the starting XV.

Taylor believes Clarke, the son of former All Black Eroni Clarke, is set for a bright future.

"He's a top bloke, he's full of energy, you can tell he's only around 20 haha. This environment can sometimes be intimidating...He's slipped in nicely. When it comes to playing footy you want to be able to express yourself and he's doing that already now and I think he'll do it on the field if he gets a chance."

Australia will find out whether they'll have to deal with Clarke, a former Auckland schools sprint champion who weighs almost 110 kilograms, when the All Blacks team is named at 11.30am. The Wallabies team will also be named on Friday.