Defeat drops Wallabies further down World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini
Your regular Monday round-up following the fifth round of The Rugby Championship.
Heading into the final round of The Rugby Championship 2022, we are no closer to knowing who will finish the tournament top of the standings.
Following one of the tightest Rugby Championships in recent memory all four of the competing nations will prepare for the weekend with a hope of claiming the title.
New Zealand currently lead the way, on points difference from South Africa, while Australia are four points adrift and Argentina another further back.
Ahead of the deciding weekend of The Rugby Championship 2022, we bring you news from each camp.
The All Blacks selectors have been forced into making changes for the visit of Australia to Eden Park due to injuries to key players.
Captain Sam Cane, Scott Barrett, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea are all unavailable, and a total of six players have been drafted into a team that will be captained by Sam Whitelock.
Codie Taylor is set to start at hooker on Saturday, while Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i and Akira Ioane form the back row.
Jordie Barrett, meanwhile, has been handed the number 12 jersey with his brother Beauden starting the match at full-back.
New Zealand know that a bonus-point win on the weekend should give them a 19th title but coach Ian Foster expects a backlash from the Wallabies following last week’s clash in Melbourne.
“This year’s Rugby Championship is so tightly contested and our group is continuing to make shifts to improve,” Foster said.
“We are determined to finish the tournament strongly and we know that Australia will throw everything at us. This is what test match rugby is all about and we can’t wait.”
Australia retain a slim hope of securing a first Rugby Championship title since 2015, but to do so they must do something they have not done since 1986.
That was the last time the Wallabies beat New Zealand at Eden Park and if they are to pip the All Blacks and South Africa to top spot then they will need a bonus point too (and for the other result to go their way).
Coach Dave Rennie has made two changes to his starting line-up for the final Rugby Championship match of the year, as Cadeyrn Neville returns to the second row and Harry Wilson is selected at number eight.
Rob Valetini shifts to blindside flanker to accommodate Wilson in the back row.
“It's great to have Cadeyrn available and Harry's been working really hard to earn another opportunity in the gold jersey, so we're excited for both of them,” Rennie said.
"The side parked the disappointment of the last test early in the week and we have plenty to play for in Auckland on Saturday night.
"New Zealand supporters have an expectation that the All Blacks win at Eden Park and we're excited to get another crack at them at their spiritual home."
By the time South Africa kick off against Argentina in Durban on Saturday they will know the exact equation facing them as they attempt to dethrone New Zealand.
If the All Blacks beat Australia earlier on Saturday then the Springboks know they will need to beat Los Pumas at Kings Park, and do so by a wide margin.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has made two changes to his starting line-up as the veteran Frans Steyn replaces the injured Damian Willemse at fly-half and Pieter Steph du Toit returns at flanker.
Lood de Jager will start in the second row again and is relishing the winner-takes-all nature of the match in Durban.
“Argentina have a chance to win the competition as well if Australia beat New Zealand, so their mind-set is that of a team that could make history by becoming the first Argentinean team to win the competition,” De Jager said.
“It’s a big game. We haven’t won a full Rugby Championship tournament in a long time. But it’s a privilege to contest for the title, and it’s like a Rugby World Cup for us.
“As a child one simulates playing in a World Cup and Rugby Championship, so hopefully we can go out and do the country proud.”
Anything other than an Australia win without a bonus point against New Zealand will end Argentina’s hopes of winning a first Rugby Championship title.
However, Michael Cheika’s side will be keen to end an encouraging campaign on a high with a rare win in South Africa.
Cheika has made two changes to his starting side from the team that were beaten 36-20 by the Springboks in Buenos Aires.
Juan Imhoff returns to the wing, while Matías Moroni is selected at outside centre with Jerónimo de la Fuente shifting inside.
“The mental preparation of the team is going very well,” Cheika said following last weekend’s loss.
“This is a team that hasn’t got a culture or understanding of what success looks like. You have to be sure you bring it every day.”