Game 2 of the Bledisloe cup kicks off very shortly and here are my keys to victory:
1. 4th choice fly half?
Tom Taylor comes in at fly half for the All Blacks following injuries to Messrs Carter, Cruden and Barrett. He is a young player who has spent a large part of the domestic season at inside centre. He has been picked ahead of the Highlanders Colin Slade and the Australian’s have been overt in their intention to place as much pressure as possible on him. If he performs well then the All Blacks machine will march on one suspects.
2. O’Connor factor
I mentioned in my keys to victory for the first test that the battle between O’Connor and Smith would be a key to success in that game and so it proved with Smith, frankly, playing O’Connor off the break last time out. One can expect that the All Blacks will direct most of their attack to O’Connor’s wing again and if he is the turnstile he was in the first test match the All Blacks will likely win.
3. The Master v The Apprentice
In my preview last week I dared to question Richie McCaw’s fitness and, yet again, I was proven wrong with Lord McCaw putting on a classic display of ruck and running play. He is the best forward in the game without question at the moment. In the gold jersey opposing him is Michael Hooper: a young man on the rise with a significant reputation as a dynamo at number 7. If Hooper can play to his reputation and best Lord McCaw here that will go a long way to an Australian win. Conversely, a McCaw masterpiece will again rest the game to the All Blacks favour.
4. Battle of the Benches
The bench for the All Blacks is the least experienced it has been for a long time. At the same time the Wallabies have a number of experienced charges to call on in the event of an injury, particularly in the form of Quade Cooper who, one suspects, will play a large part in the second half when the opposition forwards are tired and the gaps are opening up.
This will be another exciting contest and, after the thrashing the All Blacks gave the Wallabies in the first test, the Wallabies will be looking for some redemption and to keep the series alive for the 3d test in October at Forsyth Barr Stadium.