Will New Zealand's dominance in the Bledisloe Cup continue?

New Zealand have retained the Bledisloe Cup for the last 18 years

The Bledisloe Cup opener takes place this Saturday meaning one of rugby’s oldest rivalries comes around again.

A game that is always intense and exciting, this weekend in Auckland should be no different.

When you first look at the teams and how the matches have played out in recent history, you would have to say that the Wallabies are the underdogs and the All Blacks are the favourites considering New Zealand have won the Bledisloe Cup 18 years in a row.

However, the last time the two teams played in November of 2020, Australia won 24-22 and Dave Rennie’s side also secured a recent series win against France.

On face value, this does seem impressive, but when looking past the overall result, it was a third-string French side and Les Bleus should have probably won the series if they could figure out how to kick the ball into touch when the clock goes red.

But despite some positives, the Wallabies will be disappointed to lose three important players ahead of this first clash with the All Blacks. Winger Marika Koroibete, number eight Isi Naisarani and prop Pone Fa'amausili all broke curfew with a late-night drinking session meaning they are unavailable for this opener.

Koroibete is probably the biggest loss to the side with 14 tries in 37 Test appearances in the green and gold and he is a player who can cause any team problems.

For New Zealand, there are three changes from the side that took on Fiji two weeks ago. Brodie Retallick comes in in the second row with Dalton Papali starting at openside flanker whilst Ardie Savea switches to number eight and Rieko Ioane slots in on the wing. Richie Mo’unga starts at fly-half once again over former World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett, who occupies a spot on the bench.

What can we expect from the game then? Well, I imagine the style of the match will be very different to what we have seen in the British and Irish Lions vs South Africa series, which will no doubt please All Blacks boss Ian Foster after he described the recent second Test as a ‘slugfest.’

Both teams’ main goal is to play running rugby and score tries, with New Zealand scoring 219 points in their last three games. They are up against a Wallaby defence who do concede a couple of tries a match, as shown against the French, but Dave Rennie’s men do like to attack themselves and will back their own abilities to score. 

For me, it does seem like the New Zealand back three of Damian Mckenzie, Sevu Reece and Rieko Ioane could do some serious damage if the Aussies present them with enough space so the Wallabies will know they must go up another gear if they are to claim an improbable win at Eden Park.

An interesting head-to-head could also be the battle of the opensides when Papali, who Foster called “the form loose forward in Super Rugby”, clashes with Test match veteran and Wallaby captain Michael Hooper.

The Australia skipper will earn his 109th cap in Auckland this weekend and this duel will decide who wins the breakdown and both, I’m sure, will have a large impact in the loose for their sides.

Let’s hope we can see an evenly matched and competitive game on Saturday rather than a hefty defeat for Australia, which has happened on Kiwi soil all too often in recent years.