Depleted Wallabies face Eden Park hangover against All Blacks

Australia haven’t won at stadium since 1986 and run looks unlikely to end on Saturday

Michael Hooper captains a depleted Australia side against New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Albert Perez/Getty

Michael Hooper captains a depleted Australia side against New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Albert Perez/Getty

 

Bledisloe Cup: New Zealand v Australia, Saturday August 7th, Eden Park (kick-off 8.05am Irish time).

A drinking session that went past curfew has Australia set up for a thumping hangover on Saturday as the depleted Wallabies face their Eden Park demons against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup opener.

Australia will take to the field without their most potent attacking threat in winger Marika Koroibete, who was among three ruled out of selection for partying on after a team bonding session wrapped up at their Auckland hotel last weekend.

Number eight Isi Naisarani, who helped fix Australia’s breakdown woes in the series-deciding 33-30 win over France last month, is also in the freezer after joining fellow Fijian Koroibete into the late hours.

Australia could ill-afford the disruption heading into a match at the All Blacks’ Auckland fortress, where they have not beaten the hosts since 1986.

Nor do they need another injection of raw youth as they take on an All Blacks side that destroyed Fiji 60-13 in their last Test and are desperate to make a statement in front of sceptical home fans after a scratchy 2020 season.

Yet that is exactly what the Wallabies will bring on Saturday when rookie wingers Jordan Petaia and Andrew Kellaway join a starting backline featuring a total of 45 caps.

Petaia and Kellaway are among nine players with less than 10 Test caps in the starting 15, with flanker-captain Michael Hooper the 108-Test standout in a rejigged back row with promoted seven-Test blindside Rob Valetini and recalled number eight Harry Wilson.

It all adds up to a daunting assignment against a seasoned All Blacks side, who will look to shatter the Wallabies’ fragile confidence and seal the Bledisloe series a week later at the same venue.

Meanwhile, Richie Mo’unga will be the All Blacks’ starting outhalf against Australia but loose forward Shannon Frizell has been dropped after a court appearance for assault.

Frizell, who was on the bench in Hamilton, was accused of two offences of assaulting a woman and one charge of common assault at Dunedin District Court last week following an incident at a nightspot in May. He issued an apology after being offered a diversion by the judge as a first-time offender, meaning he will work with police to take responsibility for the offence without acquiring a criminal record.

“The Cup isn’t ours; we have to go out and win it again,” said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. “We can’t wait for the weekend.”

New Zealand: Damian McKenzie; Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; George Bower, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock (captain), Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea. Replacements: Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.

Australia: Tom Banks; Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway; Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott; James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa; Darcy Swain, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Harry Wilson. Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Jake Gordon, Matt Toomua, Reece Hodge. – Reuters

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