All Blacks to learn from failure to beat Lions

British and Irish Lions' Conor Murray (centre) scores a try as New Zealand All Blacks' T.J. Perenara (left) and Ardie Savea (jersey No. 20) attempt to tackle him during the match in Wellington in July 2017.
British and Irish Lions' Conor Murray (centre) scores a try as New Zealand All Blacks' T.J. Perenara (left) and Ardie Savea (jersey No. 20) attempt to tackle him during the match in Wellington in July 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY • The New Zealand All Blacks will be going all out to reassert their dominance, as wounded Australia look to trigger an upset in tomorrow's Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.

The world champions have been reviewing what went wrong in their unexpected series draw with the British and Irish Lions at home last month and are bent on rebounding against the Wallabies.

The Lions defied the odds to down the All Blacks 24-21 in Wellington to take their series to a decider, only for the final Auckland match to end in a 15-15 stalemate.

That inability to put away the Lions raised doubts whether the All Blacks' era of dominance in world rugby was on the wane.

Still, the All Blacks have dominated the Wallabies - losing only three of their last 29 trans-Tasman encounters - and are expected to do it again as Australian rugby looks to emerge from a woeful season.

 

Sonny Bill Williams returns for the New Zealanders after serving his four-match suspension, while Jerome Kaino has been dropped for the Test at the Olympic Stadium.

In a revamped line-up with six changes from the last Test side against the Lions, only halves Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith remain from the starting backline, while Damian McKenzie gets his chance at fullback.

"We reviewed that (Lions) series comprehensively, and the management have done a lot on it as well," All Blacks skipper Kieran Read said.

"Hopefully, it will show in this championship what we've learnt."

At stake against the Wallabies are not only points in the Rugby Championship, which also includes South Africa and Argentina, but also the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy.

It has been firmly in New Zealand hands since 2003 and, over the past 14 years, the All Blacks and Wallabies have played each other 42 times, with New Zealand winning 33, drawing two and losing seven.

"This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions tour," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

The pressure is on coach Michael Cheika and his Wallabies after their shock home loss to Scotland in June and coming off a dreadful Super Rugby season where Australian sides were 0-26 against Kiwi opposition.

"It's gonna be a big battle," Cheika said yesterday.

"We've worked very hard on our team work and that camaraderie is going to be needed to pull off what most people believe will be a very, very difficult task."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'All Blacks to learn from failure to beat Lions'. Print Edition | Subscribe