Rugby Championship preview: Australia v New Zealand

Last Updated: 17/08/13 11:03am

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The 2013 Rugby Championship gets underway on Saturday as the All Blacks travel to Sydney to face the Wallabies in an eagerly anticipated curtain-raiser.

Defending champions New Zealand open the campaign looking for their 100th Test victory over rivals Australia, who have won just one of the previous five meetings between the sides.

The duo's most recent encounter came 10 months ago when All Black Dan Carter failed to land a final-minute drop goal in Brisbane, leaving the sides inseparable at 18-18.

Australia enter the tournament under new leadership with former Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie taking the reins following the Wallabies Test series defeat to the British and Irish Lions earlier in the year.

New dawn

In naming his inaugural squad, 48-year-old McKenzie makes eight changes to the side which lined up against the Lions in the deciding Test match in July.

Playmaker Matt Toomua is the sole starting debutant as he assumes the number 10 jersey while fellow uncapped Brumbies Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani could feature from the bench.

Rugby Championship Live!

You can see all the action from the ANZ Stadium as Australia host New Zealand in the opening Rugby Championship game on Sky Sports 4 HD from 10:30am.

Further changes in the Wallabies camp comprise of Ben Mowen switching to No. 8 while prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons and flankers Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper are all called into the starting XV.

Melbourne Rebels forward James O'Connor, who started at fly-half previously, moves onto the left wing while Jesse Mogg takes the full-back berth after an impressive introduction against the Lions.

Experience

Meanwhile, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has selected an experienced team which boasts a combined 874 caps and an average age of 27.

Captain Richie McCaw returns to lead New Zealand in his 117th Test following a sabbatical away from the field while fellow Crusaders player Ryan Crotty could make his debut from the bench.

The front row trio of Andrew Hore, Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock lead a veteran pack which also includes McCaw in the flanks and Kieran Read at No 8.

Chiefs flanker Liam Messam was set to partner McCaw but a hamstring injury has forced the Super Rugby-winning forward to withdraw, paving the way for 22-year-old Steven Luatua to make his first start.

Aaron Cruden takes the fly-half role with Aaron Smith alongside him at scrum-half while Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Israel Dagg combine in an exciting back three for the All Blacks.

You can see all the action from the Rugby Championship live on Sky Sports.

Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (capt), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.

What they said...

Wallabies head coach Ewen McKenzie

"When we picked the team we didn't spend one minute looking at how many Test caps a player had or the number of debutants. It was picked on performance over a sustained period of time and on how we want to play the game.

"The fact that five guys haven't played a Test before isn't a concern. Everyone has to start from somewhere and we definitely haven't picked them on one game. Rather, they are starting their Test careers off the back of consistently strong performances at a provincial level."

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen

"There's huge excitement in the group as the Bledisloe Cup is a very important trophy for the All Blacks.With the changing of the guard in the Australian coaching group, it adds a little bit of the unexpected to the challenge. Therefore, we need to ready for anything they chuck at us.

"Whilst the expectations will be as high as they always are for the All Blacks to perform and win, I have a feeling there will also be huge expectations on the Australians because of the changes, and it will be interesting to see how their players and their new coaching team cope with this. The expectation is to go over there and play with real intensity, physicality and accuracy."

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