No McCaw — no difference

2013-10-19 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Not even the late withdrawal of their flank and captain, Richie McCaw (calf muscle), and winger Cory Jane (thigh) will make much of a difference to the All Blacks rugby team when they take on the Wallabies in Dunedin today.

Sam Cane replaces McCaw, while Charles Piutau takes over from Jane and has for the first time been included in the 15 man team that initially took the field. Both the injured players will travel with the All Blacks touring party next month, but Jane will not be considered for the first Test against Japan.

The home team have already won the first two Tests against the Aussies and secured the Bledisloe Cup, but it is the intent with which the All Blacks play that has been the major talking point.

Both teams will have confidence after their previous matches: the All Blacks beat a fired-up Springbok team at Ellis Park, while Australia easily beat the Pumas in Rosario.

Despite this, there is a wide distance between the two teams. That’s a fact. The All Blacks have only lost one Test since Steve Hansen took over the reins of the world champions — against England at the end of a very long and strenuous season — and one draw.

The draw was last year in the same Test against the Aussies in Brisbane, but by then the Bledisloe Cup had already been won. It would make the men in black probably more focused this time, just as many rugby teams would not want to be in England’s shoes when the two teams play each other again on November 16.

All Blacks number eight Kieran Read has recently been the leading player in the All Blacks squad, with the exciting Ben Smith not far behind. He is playing outside centre today after Conrad Smith has gone on a long sabbatical.

As a result of Read’s authority, the absence of McCaw’s leadership will not be felt that badly, while the young Chiefs flank, Sam Cane, did well when he substituted for McCaw against the Springboks and Pumas.

For the Wallabies, this game could be the stay or away match for flyhalf Quade Cooper, who still has not impressed at Test level. The Aussies will definitely try to play wide today, as well as to try and exploit Smith’s new position in the backline and Piutau’s lack of experience.

However, their chances of success are minimal. The Wallabies are probably not good enough to shock the rugby world.

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