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Wallabies still a work in progress as All Blacks claim win in second Bledisloe Cup Test


Missed tackles and turnover ball will cruel any rugby team’s chances of victory, as the Wallabies were reminded of in Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Costly mistakes from the Wallabies were pounced upon by a clinical All Blacks outfit, who played as if they had a point to prove following last weekend’s 16-16 draw in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington.

The Wallabies did deserve to be as close to the All Blacks as they were at half-time — only 10-7 down on the scoreboard — and they had at least two genuine try-scoring chances in the second term that could have kept them in the hunt.

But lapses in the fundamentals of both attack and defence let them down at various stages of the match and they have plenty to work on ahead of facing the All Blacks again later this month on Australian soil.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland.

Wallabies made to pay for poor defence

Ask any rugby coach what the key to a successful defensive performance is and they will tell you it comes down to attitude.

That being the case, Wallabies defence coach Matt Taylor now has to work as much on the mental approach of his players — and not just defensive structure and tackling technique — after they recorded 40 missed tackles against the All Blacks.

The lacklustre effort was punished by the All Blacks, who showed aggression with their carries in attack throughout the 80 minutes, while their support play often stretched the Wallabies’ defensive line.

Improving a defence that leaked four tries will be a priority for the Wallabies ahead of the upcoming three-nation tournament with the All Blacks and Argentina.

Turnovers prove costly

The intent in attack for the Wallabies was on display in Auckland but poor ball security and decision making meant the execution left much to be desired.

No team can afford to turn over possession to the All Blacks, who again showed how dangerous they are in counterattack.

For example, a Jordan Petaia loose carry coughed up possession when the Wallabies were on the attack, leading to Sam Cane’s 53rd-minute try.

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And only minutes earlier, Ardie Savea’s try came courtesy of an aimless Wallabies kick into the All Blacks’ half.

Caleb Clarke had taken the high ball before producing a bulldozing run that gave the home side a deep entry into Wallabies territory, from which point they eventually crossed for their third try of the afternoon.

Greater respect for possession — as well as a need to tighten their defence — was highlighted by Wallabies coach Dave Rennie after full-time.

“Today we turned the ball over a lot and then missed too many tackles,” Rennie said.

“You just can’t gift the All Blacks that much ball. They’ve got too many athletes who can hurt you and that’s what we saw today.”

All Blacks have a star in the making

The comparisons to the late Jonah Lomu are premature, but Clarke announced himself as an All Blacks star of the future with a stunning run-on debut.

The 21-year-old winger was a handful for the Wallabies in attack, perhaps best illustrated by the aforementioned lead-up work he provided for Savea’s try in the second half, which effectively sealed the win for the All Blacks.

A New Zealand All Blacks player makes a break against the Wallabies.
Caleb Clarke had a significant impact in his first run-on Test for the All Blacks.(AP: Mark Baker)

The physically imposing Clarke, whose father Eroni played for the All Blacks in the 1990s, made 12 tackle busts and three clean line breaks in a performance that satisfied coach Ian Foster in his classically understated way.

“We’re just trying to give him the ball occasionally and he’s pretty useful,” Foster said after the match.

Beauden Barrett also made his presence felt in his return from injury, showing what the All Blacks missed through his absence in Wellington a week ago.

Has Hanigan arrived as a Test player?

Rennie deserves praise for the faith he showed in Ned Hanigan, whose almost two-year hiatus from the Test arena came to an end with selection in the Wallabies’ starting XV.

Hanigan had not proven himself at the international level in his previous 20 Test appearance but his performance at blindside flanker at Eden Park was impressive.

An Australian Wallabies player prepares to throw a pass against the All Blacks.
Ned Hanigan produced his best display in a Wallabies jersey.(AP: Mark Baker)

He was effective on both the attacking and defensive sides of the ball, with his highlights reel featuring a crucial line break that eventually led to the Wallabies’ only try of the afternoon, scored by Marika Koroibete.

The challenge now for Hanigan is to back up that display, as being able to produce a repeat effort will go a long way to ensuring he has a long-term future as a member of Rennie’s Wallabies program.



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New Zealand’s All Blacks defeat Australia 27-7 in second Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland


Australia’s run of outs at Eden Park has continued, with New Zealand recording a convincing 27-7 victory in the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland.

The Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks at the venue since 1986 and the visitors backed their chances of snapping the losing streak following their spirited display in last weekend’s pulsating 16-16 draw in Wellington.

But the All Blacks were in a different class for much of the contest at Eden Park, scoring four tries to one to edge closer to retaining the Bledisloe Cup, which they have held since 2003.

After holding a slender 10-7 lead at half-time, the All Blacks scored three tries in the second term and kept the Wallabies scoreless on the way to their 20th straight victory over their trans-Tasman rival at Eden Park.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will meet again in two Tests in Sydney (October 31) and Brisbane (November 7) in what is a revamped Rugby Championship tournament following the withdrawal of South Africa.

Both sides will also play Argentina in the three-nation competition.

The All Blacks, stung by a poor effort in the Bledisloe Cup opener, came into Sunday’s Test in Auckland with more venom.

Veteran hooker Dane Coles bristled with energy and the return of Beauden Barrett from injury injected penetrative pace.

A New Zealand All Blacks players holds an Australian Wallabies opponent around the shoulders.
There was some feeling in the early exchanges between the All Blacks and Wallabies.(AP: Mark Baker)

But the undoubted star was winger Caleb Clarke, who showed Jonah Lomu-like skills and strength as he bulldozed the Wallabies defence time and again to announce himself as a future star in the making.

Clarke, whose father Eroni played for the All Blacks, was so impressive he left the field to a standing ovation with 12 minutes remaining in the match.

The All Blacks did a great job protecting five-eighth Richie Mo’unga after he was ruffled by the Wallabies’ defence in Wellington.

They used skip passes to Jack Goodhue and Barrett also stepped into first receiver role.

After a Mo’unga penalty, it was Goodhue running at first receiver in the 23rd minute that led to the All Blacks’ first try.

Goodhue powered to within a metre of the line and Aaron Smith scooted around from the base of the ruck to score.

Ned Hanigan was a strong addition to the Wallabies’ starting XV and they struck back just on the half-hour mark when the blindside flanker broke through an attempted tackle by Joe Moody.

Moody was left face down on the turf after being knocked out when his head smacked into Hanigan’s hip.

Hanigan burst clear to give the Wallabies vital field position and they capitalised through Marika Koroibete scoring in the left corner.

Four Australian Wallabies players celebrate a try against New Zealand's All Blacks.
The Wallabies had a glimmer of hope when Marika Koroibete (second from right) scored a try.(AP: Mark Baker)

The Wallabies were dealt a blow from the ensuing kick-off when Matt To’omua appeared to strain a hip flexor while making a clearing kick and he was replaced by Jordan Petaia.

Leading by three points at half-time, the All Blacks started the second term with a try-scoring blitz.

Within three minutes of the resumption, Jordie Barrett crossed after Mo’unga and Goodhue combined to create an overlap against a flat-footed Wallabies defence.

The match was effectively over three minutes later when Clarke — with a mix of raw power and savvy footwork — smashed through five would-be tacklers to create the space for number eight Ardie Savea to bust past the remnants of the Wallabies’ broken defence.

With the All Blacks leading 20-7, the Wallabies had appeared to grab one try back when hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa crawled over the line from a rolling maul deep inside opposition territory.

But following the intervention of the TMO, Paenga-Amosa was judged to have promoted the ball illegally across the line and the All Blacks were awarded a penalty.

All Blacks skipper Same Cane scored the fourth and final try in the 53rd minute, with Mo’unga adding the conversion to close out the scoring for the afternoon.

AAP/ABC



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Live: All Blacks, Wallabies locked in tight battle in second Bledisloe Cup Test



Coming off last weekend’s thrilling draw, there is little separating New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, as the Wallabies chase their first win over the All Blacks at the venue in 34 years. Follow all the action in our live ScoreCentre.



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Wallabies make changes for second Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand’s All Blacks


Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has backed recalled forward Ned Hanigan to provide “a point of difference” in Sunday’s second Bledisloe Cup Test at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Hanigan has been named at blindside flanker to face the All Blacks as part of a back-row positional change to the Wallabies’ line-up that drew last Sunday’s thrilling Bledisloe Cup opener 16-16 in Wellington.

Harry Wilson, who played at blindside flanker in Wellington, shifts to number eight, with Pete Samu dropping out of the matchday squad for the Eden Park clash.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa replaces Folau Fainga’a at hooker in the other change to the starting XV, while Queensland pair Liam Wright and Jordan Petaia have been selected on the reserves bench.

Hanigan has not played a Test since 2018 but Rennie said the 25-year-old deserved an international recall based on his training performances.

“Ned has been really impressive and has trained superbly in the four weeks that we’ve been together,” Rennie said.

“He’s done a lot of work around the All Blacks and the opposition stuff leading into last weekend’s game.

Hanigan, who can also play lock, offers the Wallabies an extra lineout option against the All Blacks.

“He’s a really good leader and lineout forward and we think all those elements are important this week,” Rennie said of Hanigan, who has played 20 Tests for the Wallabies.

An Australian rugby union international holds onto the ball as he is tackled by two defenders.
Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami was busy in attack and defence on debut.(AP: Brett Phibbs)

Rennie showed faith in outside centre Hunter Paisami, resisting the urge to name Petaia in his starting XV after the 20-year-old recovered from the hip injury that ruled him out of the Wellington Test.

Paisami performed well in his Test debut last Sunday and will again partner Matt To’omua in the centres.

Wright’s inclusion on the reserves bench comes at the expense of Rob Valetini.

The All Blacks have also made changes to their matchday squad, with Beauden Barrett returning from injury to line up at fullback.

Barrett missed the opening Test because of an Achilles tendon injury. He takes the place of Damien McKenzie, who moves to the bench.

Among the other changes, Rieko Ioane has been dumped from the starting XV, with Anton Lienert-Brown named in the centres, and Caleb Clarke replaces injured winger George Bridge.

Lock Sam Whitelock has failed to recover from a head knock, with Tupou Vaa’i coming into the starting line-up.

The Wallabies are chasing their first victory over the All Blacks at Eden Park in 34 years.

A win would boost their chances of reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup, which the All Blacks have held since 2003.

The Wallabies and All Blacks will play another two Tests as part of what is now a three-nation tournament following the withdrawal of South Africa from the Rugby Championship.

Argentina will also contest the Tri-Nations championship alongside the Wallabies and All Blacks.

ABC/AAP



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Wallabies show promising signs against All Blacks in epic Bledisloe Cup draw in Wellington


It is far too early to suggest Australia is on the verge of reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in almost two decades, but Sunday’s epic 16-16 draw with New Zealand provided evidence brighter days may lie ahead for the Wallabies.

They had their chances to beat the All Blacks in Wellington during almost 90 minutes of rugby and they will no doubt count themselves unlucky Reece Hodge’s long-range effort after the full-time siren hit the upright instead of sailing through for a match-winning penalty goal.

It was not a flawless performance from the Wallabies but there were enough positives to give Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hope his side can win the second Bledisloe Cup Test next Sunday at Auckland’s Eden Park, although he would be mindful of Australia’s woeful record at the venue.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the Wallabies’ display in the pulsating Bledisloe Cup opener.

Wallabies playing with harder edge

It could not be said the Wallabies lacked a desire to win under former coach Michael Cheika, but the squad’s resolve does appear to be strengthening under Rennie’s leadership.

Yes, this is an observation made following just one Test under his coaching, however there were signs in Wellington the Wallabies are developing into a mentally tougher unit.

An example of this came when they trailed 13-3 in the second half.

This was a point in the match where in the past the Wallabies could have easily folded against the All Blacks, especially when playing in New Zealand.

An Australian rugby union international reaches out to plant the ball down in the corner for a try.
Winger Marika Koroibete (right) scored one of the Wallabies’ two tries.(AP/Photosport)

Yet Rennie’s team responded with score tries to Filipo Daugunu and Marika Koroibiete, and a penalty goal to James O’Connor to move in front on the scoreboard, 16-13.

The fact they could not close out the match shows they are nowhere near the finished product, but there is a reason for Wallabies fans to be encouraged.

Rennie’s comments after the match should also hearten the Australian rugby community, as he showed he will not be satisfied simply with admirable performances.

“We’re disappointed,” Rennie said in his post-match media conference.

“We’re certainly not celebrating in the changerooms.”

There’s room for improvement

As spirited as the Wallabies’ display was in Wellington, there are areas of concern for Rennie ahead of the Eden Park clash and looking beyond to the Rugby Championship beginning later this month.

The Wallabies enjoyed around 60 per cent of both possession and territory, yet could not translate those stats into a decisive scoreboard advantage against the All Blacks.

The line-out proved to be a weakness and the All Blacks got the better of the breakdown battle, while discipline was a cause for alarm, with the Wallabies conceding 14 penalties to their opponents’ seven.

None of this was lost on Rennie.

“We’re miles away from where we need to be, we let ourselves down,” he said.

“We gave away 14 penalties and a big chunk of those were post tackle.”

Debutants show the right stuff

There is no tougher assignment for a player making his Test debut than facing the All Blacks in New Zealand, and Wallabies trio Daugunu, Hunter Paisami and Harry Wilson have reason to hold their heads high.

It is too early to tell whether they will have a similar impact at Test level to another three Wallabies who debuted against the All Blacks in New Zealand 31 years ago — World Cup winners Tim Horan, Phil Kearns and Tony Daly — but there were encouraging signs.

A male Australian Test rugby player dives in the air as he scores a try against the All Blacks.
Filipo Daugunu (left) was impressive on debut for the Wallabies.(AP: John Cowpland)

Winger Daugunu proved a handful on the wing and was justly rewarded with a second-half try, while outside centre Paisami performed with distinction on both sides of the ball.

The hype surrounding back rower Wilson during Queensland’s Super Rugby and Super Rugby AU campaigns was massive and there is much evidence to predict he will deliver on his promise.

Wilson is the type of ball-running back rower — with the ability to offload in the tackle — the Wallabies desperately need and his aggression in defence is another of his strengths.

He was not intimidated by his first exposure to Bledisloe Cup rugby and a lengthy Test career could await the 20-year-old.

Wallabies should keep All Blacks happy

Although the All Blacks were staring at their first loss to the Wallabies in New Zealand in 19 years, they should be satisfied with the performance of their trans-Tasman rivals.

That may sound like a strange statement, but stick with me on this one.

It was only two years ago that then-New Zealand coach Steve Hansen threw a barb at Australia by suggesting the All Blacks were being hindered in the build-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup because they were lacking consistent competition from the Wallabies.

“There is definitely something missing because they [the Wallabies] are not quite right and are not performing to the level they can,” Hansen said in late 2018.

A New Zealand All Blacks players holds the ball while under pressure from the Australian defence.
The All Blacks were pushed by the Wallabies throughout the contest in Wellington.(AP: Andrew Cornaga)

The Wallabies did beat the All Blacks in Brisbane in 2017 and last year in Perth, but they were the only wins they could muster over Hansen’s side in the 2016-2019 Rugby World Cup window and they were both achieved on home soil.

Aside from a gallant 35-29 loss in Dunedin three years ago, the Wallabies barely laid a glove on the All Blacks when playing in New Zealand during that period, highlighted by last year’s 36-0 thrashing in Auckland.

A more competitive Wallabies outfit under Rennie might just keep the All Blacks happy.



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Wallabies, All Blacks draw first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington


The Wallabies and All Blacks have played out a gripping 16-16 draw in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington, with play continuing for almost nine minutes after the full-time siren.

Reece Hodge had the chance to snatch a win with a 55-metre penalty goal attempt after the full-time siren, but his shot hit the right-hand upright.

Play continued but neither side was able to find the winning points, with James O’Connor finally electing to boot the ball into touch and settle for the draw almost nine minutes after the siren had sounded.

O’Connor kicked a penalty in the 63rd minute to split a 13-13 deadlock and it looked like it could be enough for the Wallabies to break through for their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.

But veteran Wallabies lock Rob Simmons gave away a penalty with two minutes remaining, allowing Jordie Barrett to level for the All Blacks.

The Wallabies, playing under new coach Dave Rennie for the first time, trailed 8-3 at half-time and 13-3 soon after the break but their wingers, Marika Koroibete and debutant Filipo Daugunu, both scored to level the score at 13-13 and put the visitors in position for an unlikely victory.

An Australian rugby union international reaches out to plant the ball down in the corner for a try.
Marika Koroibete scored the first of the Wallabies’ two tries.(AP/Photosport)

“I’m very proud of our team to fight all the way through,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper told New Zealand’s Sky Sport.

“It was an enjoyable game, despite the conditions and despite the result, we are off to a good start with some things … there’s a lot of belief.

Playing the first of four Bledisloe Cup Tests, the Wallabies looked a little shaky early on.

Australian touch judge Angus Gardner did not do the Wallabies any favours when he failed to raise his flag when Rieko Ioane put his foot on the line in the build-up to the All Blacks’ first try.

The home side worked the ball wide to make room for Barrett to open the scoring in the eighth minute.

The Wallabies kept busy, dominating possession and territory in the first half with halfback Nic White mixing up his game to keep the All Blacks on their toes.

An Australian rugby union international holds onto the ball as he is tackled by two defenders.
Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami was busy in attack and defence on debut.(AP: Brett Phibbs)

But their line-out was again a weakness, turning over three throws.

It looked like they had conceded a try right on half-time when hooker Folau Faingaa spilt a ball which was picked up by Sam Cane, but Ioane blew a certain try when he lost control of the ball as he tried to put it down one-handed.

The Wallabies continued to build into the match, with their defence a highlight, giving All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga no room.

The superb showing means the Wallabies can dare to dream of winning back the Bledisloe Cup, heading next to Auckland’s Eden Park next Sunday on a high.

AAP/ABC



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New Zealand vs Australia, Bledisloe Cup first Test live score, stats and commentary



A new-look Wallabies squad is attempting to pull off an upset win over the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington.

Follow our ScoreCentre for the live score, key stats and commentary.

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Wallabies would offer renewed hope to Australian rugby with a Bledisloe Cup victory over New Zealand


So, here we are then.

Living at a time when we must protect the elderly and the vulnerable, remain distant for fear of contamination and limit our exposure to all forms of media lest the constant stream of bad news erode our already fragile mental health.

The novel coronavirus? Well, yes, that is also the cause of some concern and inconvenience.

But the virulent threat to the wellbeing of Australians to which I refer is the Bledisloe Cup, which returns this weekend in an unusual Sunday afternoon time slot that would usually be as inviting as the White House buffet.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome, the definition of stark raving dribbling-down-your-chin bonkers is tuning in on Sunday and expecting the Wallabies to be anything other than roadkill for the All Blacks.

Michael Hooper walks with his head down with his teammates behind him
The Wallabies have failed to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup under Michel Hooper’s captaincy.(AP: Brett Phibbs)

Given the Bledisloe Cup has been missing from the Wallabies’ trophy cabinet since 2003, what leads you to believe there is any more hope of them winning in Wellington than there is of Alan Jones inviting former Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle over for Christmas dinner?

Except … there is something quite enticing about this season’s first encounter, a hint of renewal and purpose that has either created the cruellest of false hopes for local rugby fans or — dare we believe? — is the turning point for Australian sport’s great underachiever.

Rogue African nations have conducted coups less bloody than Australian rugby’s recent purge. The coach, chief executive and chairman have all gone, while one of Qantas’ few scheduled departures was from RA.

But for all this shuffling of deckchairs on the Titanic, most of the responsibility for avoiding the iceberg falls to new coach David Rennie, who happily possesses impeccable credentials.

He is an acclaimed coach with a proven record and — as a Kiwi appointed by the previous administration — will be the perfect scapegoat if things go pear-shaped again.

Dave Rennie wears a black suit with a black tie and white shirt
Dave Rennie’s appointment as coach has offered hope to Wallabies fans.(AAP/SNPA: David Rowland)

So far, Rennie’s team is making all the right noises about their new mentor. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto spoke of how Rennie has “gone really well in building the culture and getting the boys to understand different cultures because we all come from different places”.

This seems an important step forward from the days when the different places from which the Wallabies came were not multicultural backgrounds but private schools such as Joeys, Riverview or Nudgee, and the cultural divide was between their different hazing rituals, school songs and their parents’ choice of European car.

Change has also brought renewal with no less than 16 uncapped players in the extended Wallabies squad, creating the possibility the jersey presentations will take longer than the game if Rennie goes all-in on youth.

Rennie has maintained one link with the past by reappointing the redoubtable captain Michael Hooper, who will play his 100th Test for Australia on Sunday, a feat that will place him in an elite group of just 12 Wallabies.

Australia’s relative lack of success makes this is an even more laudable achievement given maintaining your place in the Wallabies line-up for so long must have seemed — at times — like being the last person waiting to be rescued from a burning building.

Added feeling to Bledisloe Cup clash

During a desultory period for the Wallabies, softened only by the occasional highlight such as the unexpected ride to the 2015 World Cup final, you could feel the wider public interest and passion for a once-beloved national team drain away.

At the same time, the All Blacks — with their famed shed-cleaning culture, internationally recognised brand and serial winning — gained grudging respect in the rugby states and unfettered admiration from those of us residing outside rugger heartland.

The All Blacks pose for a photo around the Bledisloe Cup after defeating Australia's Wallabies in Auckland.
The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with their win in Auckland last year.(AAP: David Rowland)

It might horrify the hardcore Wallabies faithful and those ex-players still showing the scars from All Black boot studs but as a rivalry became an occupation, the All Blacks have imposed a form of sporting Stockholm syndrome on some Australians.

But there is some real needle to this Bledisloe Cup clash, partly the result of the unusual COVID-era conditions that necessitated hard bargaining on either side of the Tasman about scheduling and conditions.

This brought out the smug and dictatorial streak in New Zealand Rugby, whose resistance to Australia’s COVID-related scheduling requirements has been both abrupt and high-handed.

Well, this is the version widely reported by the Australian media. And during a year when sport is replete with saccharine stories about “athlete sacrifice” and usually bitter rivalries are diluted by “wonderful cooperative efforts just to get on the field”, a bit of old-fashioned argy-bargy is a welcome sign of normality.

Then there is the broader trans-Tasman rivalry which, to be honest, has been rather awkward for Australians in recent years as the Kiwis enhanced their reputation as the noble diplomats of cricket, entertainment and even global politics.

The pandemic, however, has presented a rare opportunity to look bitterly across the pond and curse New Zealanders for their laughably minuscule COVID rates, their relatively short and highly effective lockdown period, their substantial and relatable prime minister and — most of all — their refusal to let us in.

A shock Bledisloe Cup defeat by a resurgent and exciting young Wallabies team coached by one of their own is just the thing these entitled small islanders deserve for having it so good.

So an against-all-odds Wallabies victory would come at just the right time both to help regenerate the game, and provide something fans have missed during this Kumbaya period of world sport: sheer bloody spite.

Offsiders will review all the big sports stories and issues on Sunday at 10:00am on ABC TV.



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Rugby Australia tweaks Wallabies selection policy for 2020 Bledisloe Cup and internationals


Rugby Australia (RA) has announced a one-off change to the Wallabies selection policy for 2020 to allow two additional overseas-based players to join the squad to provide extra depth.

RA announced that up to two players contracted to overseas clubs who do not meet the 60-cap and seven-year service threshold under the so-called ‘Giteau Law’ can be selected this year.

The change will ensure Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has sufficient depth at his disposal in key positions such as lock, where Australia has had a mass exodus of players.

Locks Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman, as well as centre Samu Kerevi, are among the overseas-based players who are now eligible for selection.

Rennie is set to announce his first Wallabies squad on Sunday ahead of the upcoming Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.

There will be a 46-man squad for the November-December Rugby Championship, with no possibility for players to move in and out of a 10-week COVID-19 bubble before and during the four-nations tournament.

Rennie said the change in policy allowed greater flexibility for Wallabies selectors while still prioritising the selection of players based in Australia.

“We now have the chance to select one or two players based overseas who don’t meet the current criteria and they’ll not only add some experience to our group but be able to guide our young players to help their development,” Rennie said in a statement.

Will Skelton
Australian international Will Skelton has been playing club rugby in Europe since 2017.(Reuters: Andrew Boyers)

RA interim chief executive Rob Clarke said the change to the eligibility rules was in response to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a number of players opting to take up lucrative contracts overseas.

“Dave will soon assemble his squad and they’re likely to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 weeks with no opportunity to call in replacements for injury due to the quarantined environment,” Clarke said.

“We are being quite clear that this addition is for this year only but that we will continue to review the entire policy from time to time, as required.”

Australia’s Super Rugby clubs and RA board members will have to sign off on any overseas-based players who are proposed by selectors.

The existing 60-cap and seven-year service threshold is based on changes made to the selection policy in 2015 that allowed the likes of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to be selected for the Wallabies despite the fact they were playing club rugby in Europe at the time.

AAP/ABC



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