30 Oct 2020

All Blacks to seal 18 years of Bledisloe Cup dominance?

8:18 am on 30 October 2020

Will the All Blacks canter to victory to retain the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year? Or will the Wallabies bounce back to cause a boilover in Sydney tomorrow night?

Ardie Savea scores a try and celebrates with team mates Beauden Barrett and Shannon Frizell and Anton Lienert-Brown in the Bledisloe Cup test match at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 18 October 2020

Ardie Savea has been replaced in the starting side by Hoskins Sotutu. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

The All Blacks have never secured the trophy on Australian soil and they're determined to wrap up the series before the fourth match in Brisbane.

Coach Ian Foster has made just three changes to the side that put the Wallabies to the sword in the second test at Eden Park, backing a consistent selection policy to result in consistent performances.

No.8 Hoskins Sotutu gets his first start as a straight swap for Ardie Savea, who has stayed in New Zealand for the birth of his second child.

Blues forward Hoskins Sotutu.

Hoskins Sotutu playing for the Blues. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Foster is confident the Blues loosie will fill Savea's shoes with aplomb.

"I've been really pleased with his involvements from the bench in his two games. He's been training really well, we're excited with his workrate and how he's been learning and whilst it's a big test we have complete faith. He seems to be really calm, he loves to show his skillsets and I can't wait to see him do that on the big stage."

Foster has made just two other tweaks to the starting XV, with Karl Tu'inukuafe coming in at prop for Joe Moody, who is battling concussion symptoms, while lock Sam Whitelock returns from his head knock.

Foster said the All Blacks sole focus is retaining the Bledisloe Cup and he believes his selections give them continuity.

"There's no hiding the fact the Bledisloe is a great series, it's always been special for us and we haven't won it (this year) yet. We want to win it and we're airing on the side of consistency of selection and trying to grow our performance."

Foster said retaining the trophy on Australian soil would taste rather sweet.

While most of the current players have won the Cup before, none have sealed the series while across the ditch.

"It would be quite a special achievement for this group, not having any player that's done it, it's just made this challenge a little bit different. We've got to show our colours when we're playing away from home and show we can lift our performance regardless of what country we're playing in."

The Wallabies will be buoyed by being in their own back yard and by the fact they won last year's Bledisloe Cup test in Perth.

Foster believes that result will have no bearing on tomorrow's match, but said there's a vital lesson to be learnt.

"They're a very proud nation and playing on their home soil is vital for them, just like it has been for us. We know there's going to be a massive effort from the Wallabies, it's a do or die for them and the key thing is we've got to make it do or die for us as too. If we don't match that hunger level then we can start talking about the match in Perth last year, because we clearly got outhungered [sic] in that game."

Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is confident the All Blacks won't be "outhungered" in Sydney and believes they'll take their performance to another level.

"The All Blacks seem to get better and better the more they're together. We saw it from week one to week two and I'm sure we'll see it again going into the third game. Australia are going to be a hard side to beat, they're getting a few things right which is exciting for the All Blacks, because it makes it a genuine contest."

The Wallabies chances of making it a contest have been dealt a blow with first-five James O'Connor and midfielder Matt Toomua ruled out of the match and coach Dave Rennie taking a punt on uncapped backs Noah Lolesio and Irae Simone.

Simone, who's back in rugby after playing for NRL club South Sydney, will be a familiar face for All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue, with the pair playing together at Mt Albert Grammar.

Goodhue is looking forward to catching up, but couldn't resist firing a barb at his old midfield partner.

"How it worked in our First XV was I was second-five and he was centre. When we were on attack and had the ball he would always call a miss pass, skipping me, and then on defence he was always like, 'Jack he's your's, you make the tackle', and that's how it worked in out First XV, haha."

If the Wallabies avoid making tackles tomorrow night, Goodhue and the All Blacks will likely be walking away from the stadium with the Bledisloe Cup in tow.