Chance for ABs to show true colours

Ian Foster. Photo: Getty Images
Ian Foster. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks will finally take  the field on Sunday when they play the Wallabies in Wellington. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn looks at some issues involved in the game and what might happen.

Poor Boy

Who will be more relieved when the test kicks off? Ian Foster or Mark Robinson?

Foster will finally get his chance to coach his team, more than four months after the All Blacks were supposed to play their first game under the former Mooloos man.

Those nerves when a big game is around the corner should be a pleasure for Foster instead of an unwelcome attraction come game day.

Robinson may feel a small bit of weight off his shoulders. As New Zealand Rugby chief executive he is in charge of all things oval ball in this country.

Over the past six months, there have been plenty of challenges for Robinson, most of them brought about by having little or no income and plenty of expenditure. He has had to swing the axe.

One thing about the All Blacks is they are the cash cow for the organisation. They bring in about 80% of NZR’s income and bring in the profile. Them playing is like Christmas arriving for the pavlova company.

Hard Act to Follow

Sam Cane knew he was going to be All Black captain in early March.

It was about the same time the world got turned upside down by Covid-19.

There is still no vaccine for Covid-19 but at least Cane will start on Sunday to try to show he is the right man for the captaincy. More than six months is a long time to wait to show your credentials.

Cane played for the winless Chiefs and got injured. Another Chiefs loose forward, Lachlan Boshier, grabbed all the turnovers and stole the limelight.

He was then injured in turn. Cane never fronted for the North/South game. He played for Bay of Plenty but was under the radar in a couple of games.

Now is his chance to lead the best team in the country and stamp his mark.

I Got You

Beauden or Richie at first five-eighth? Beauden, thanks.

Jordie or Beauden at fullback? Jordie — as an aside is there a better player in the country than Jordie Barrett these days?

Rieko Ioane to start at centre? Still unlikely but maybe next week.

Will the love affair with Jack Goodhue still continue? Sure will but he is tidy and solid more than dynamic and eye-catching. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Shannon Frizell will show he belongs at test level? Probably, but he will barely play an hour.

An energetic performance from Sam Whitelock? The only way for him is up after an empty petrol tank over the past couple of years.

Tupou Vai’i will get on? Could be as the dream run continues. But let’s not get too carried away. Injuries and a lack of big men has elevated him way ahead of time.

The men in black have too many power men and not enough ball handlers in the pack? Perhaps but it is like league these days so it doesn’t matter.

A wet day in Wellington? Of course, a test is on. Rain and wind guaranteed.

One Step Ahead

The Wallabies have a new coach and they have some promising players in their ranks. The Super Rugby Australia competition threw up some good games and Australia grabbed The Rugby Championship from New Zealand.

But the reality is the Australians have lost plenty of talent and even that was not overly good. The second row is average and the front row is questionable. There is no clear general at first five-eighth and not a lot of strikepower out wide. There will be rust from the All Blacks for sure and plenty of ball will be spilt but it looks like a comfortable win for the home team.

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