Will the Scores be Evened in Round 2?
The biggest rugby tournament in the Southern Hemisphere returns this weekend after a exhilarating first round. After a resounding defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, Australia will travel to Wellington to try and claim an exceptionally rare away victory against the World Number 1s. Argentina will host the Springboks this weekend and will hope to build on their exceptionally narrow loss last week.
With over 100 points scored between the two games last weekend, we can’t wait for another round of thrilling rugby.
New Zealand v Australia
After only one weekend, a loss at home makes this a must win game for Australia if are to keep their dream alive of winning the Bledisloe Cup. It’s a tough ask. The All Blacks have not lost a game at home in over 40 Tests (It’s going to need to be a very good Lions team next year) but the Wallabies would like nothing more than to be the team to end that record run.
Helping to maintain that enviable record this weekend, is new All Black, Anton Lienert-Brown. At the age of 21, he is exceptionally young to have made the starting squad for the best rugby team in the world. He has been fast tracked into the squad to cover injuries but his utility and his performance for the Chiefs this season that secured him his place. We could be seeing a lot more of Lienert-Brown in the future.
Australia have made some changes of their own. Most notably, Quade Cooper is on the team sheet. Some expected him to play in the first game of the tournament but after losing three backs last week (Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne) it must have become clear to Coach, Michael Cheika, they needed Cooper.
Australia have their work cut out for them but there is always the chance the All Blacks will slip up. It’s just a very very small chance.
New Zealand Starting XV: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.
Australia Starting XV: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Dane Haylett-Petty, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Adam Coleman, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio.
Argentina v South Africa
Argentina were minutes away from an away victory against the Springboks last week, then denied a tie by a last minute try from Warren Whiteley. The sting of that narrow loss will motivate them in Salta this weekend.
South Africa meanwhile will be hoping to avoid a game as close as last week. It will be a challenge for a team and Coach who have still to settle into their new set-up. While there are a number of players with a long history for the Springboks (This will be Tendai Mtawarira’s 80th cap) this South African side is relatively inexperienced: only eight players remain in the Springboks squad that played Argentina two years ago. However, Allister Coetzee knows a big away win will do wonders for his green squad’s confidence. It should be a fantastic game.
South Africa Starting XV: Johan Goosen, Ruan Combrink, Lionel Mapoe, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mahoje, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Tendai Mtawarira.
Argentina Starting XV: TBC
What are your predictions for Round 2? Let us know in the comments below or over on Twitter.