Match details: Australia v All Blacks, Saturday 7 November, 9.45pm NZT, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Won: All Blacks 117, Australia 44, Drawn 8
Last time: All Blacks 43, Australia 5 (31 October 2020)
While the earlier Tests of the Covid-19 directed series were directed towards the battle for the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks travel to Brisbane with the Investec Tri Nations in their sights.
A win at Suncorp Stadium would have the All Blacks only one win against Argentina away from also claiming that prize.
Playmaker gamble for Australia
While there may have been a surprise in Beauden Barrett being given the starting role at first five-eighths in Brisbane, the surprise was even greater when Australian coach Dave Rennie tossed the challenge to Reece Hodge to step into first five-eighths after James O'Connor wasn't able to recover from his MCL injury. Noah Lolesio, who was the choice in Sydney last week, drops backs to the substitutes. Hodge has appeared only once before in the position in a Test matches, in 2017 against Japan. And it is not a role he has played with any regularity in Super Rugby. Going up against Barrett instead of Richie Mo'unga, who has been rested, won't be any easier as the former World Rugby player of the year looks to take a rare chance to show he still has the skills to demand continued consideration in the role. And after disappointment with Australia's kicking game in their two losses to the All Blacks, Hodge will also face pressure in that department.
No let-up from NZ backline changes
New Zealand may have six backline changes for Brisbane but it is difficult to believe that will make the side any weaker. Australia's four changes give them a more vulnerable look. Centre Anton Lienert-Brown is the only All Black to retain his starting position. Of the Australian changes, wing Tom Wright will be on debut and will have a tough first-up mission in dealing with the threat that Rieko Ioane will provide when back in the left-wing position from which he launched himself onto the world stage. Tom Banks is back at fullback as a result of concussion suffered by Dane Haylett-Petty while Hunter Paisami has replaced Irae Simone at second five-eighths. Paisami will have the job of containing Ngani Laumape making his starting return after a long period out with injury.
Akira Ioane gets his Test debut on the blindside of the All Blacks' scrum as Shannon Frizell is rested but Australia also made a change by dropping Ned Hannigan to the bench and calling in Lachlan Swinton to also make his Test debut after winning hard-man status with the Waratahs in Australia's Super Rugby competition. Swinton will also cover lock. Regarded as a player who thrives on strong ball carries and big hits, he may find himself up against a player with similar qualities in Ioane. But which player gets the foundation to best show their qualities will again be dependent on the work done up-front.
For the statisticians
Suncorp Stadium may not be in Eden Park's category as a home-team fortress, but the Australians have not lost the six Tests they have played there since June 2016 when beaten 28-39 by England. Australia, without a win in the last four Tests, have to go back to a stretch of six losses from October 2015-August 2016 for the last time they have gone longer without a win. All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock will make his 100th Test start in the game in what will be his 120th appearance while Australia prop James Slipper will play his 100th Test – 51 of his starts were from the bench, an Australian record shared with Tatafau Polota-Nau.
The teams are:
Australia: 1.James Slipper, 2.Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3.Allan Alaalatoa, 4.Rob Simmons, 5.Matt Philip, 6.Lachlan Swinton, 7.Michael Hooper (captain), 8.Harry Wilson, 9.Nic White, 10.Reece Hodge, 11.Marika Koroibete, 12.Hunter Paisami, 13.Jordan Petaia, 14.Tom Wright, 15.Tom Banks.
Substitutes: 16.Folau Fainga'a, 17.Angus Bell, 18.Taniela Tupou, 19.Ned Hannigan, 20.Liam Wright, 21.Tate McDermott, 22.Noah Lolesio, 23.Filipo Daugunu.
All Blacks: 1.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Ofa Tuungafasi, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Samual Whitelock, 6.Akira Ioane, 7.Sam Cane (captain), 8.Ardie Savea, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Sevu Reece, 15.Jordie Barrett.
Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Tyrel Lomax, 19.Patrick Tuipulotu, 20.Cullen Grace, 21.Brad Weber, 22.Damian McKenzie, 23.Will Jordan.