The Rugby Championship 2013 starts this weekend with two epic matches to get punters excited. The All Blacks are hot favourites to win the Rugby Championship title, although in some ways it would spice things up if the Wallabies won in Sydney on Saturday night, but we will see.
Most talk surrounding the Rugby Championship Round 1 is of the new scrum engagement laws which will see teams “crouch,bind,set” and this will mean standing closer together and de-powering the scrums by around 25 percent, this will most likely assist the new look Wallabies team under coach Ewen McKenzie.
There are casualties for all teams, but the most notable omissions are Argentinian captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, All Blacks legend Dan Carter and loose forward Liam Messam out and Springbok veteran Fourie Du Preez starting from the bench. Matt Toomua wins the Wallaby Number 10 jumper.
All The Rugby Championship Teams have been named for Round 1
All Blacks vs Wallabies
The magic of Bledisloe Cup rugby is back and while the Wallabies haven’t held the trophy since 2003, there is renewed optimism following the appointment of new coach Ewen McKenzie. The major talking point is the selection of Matt Toomua in the Number 10 jersey, James O’Connor on the wing and Quade Cooper on the bench.
The new scrum engagement laws should also help an inexperienced Wallabies pack when you compare them to the 874 test rugby caps by the All Blacks team. But will the All Blacks veterans like Richie McCaw, Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore be off the pace compared with their younger opponents?
The Wallabies have just named their team with Christian Lealifano likely to be their starting goal kicker in the Number 12 jersey. I can’t wait for a potential match up between Julian Savea and Israel Folau, while Stephen Moore and Andrew Hore will also have a great battle. Will the younger Wallaby loose forwards have too much speed to the breakdown compared with their All Blacks opponents with Richie McCaw potentially short of a gallop these days?
I think in some ways Dan Carter’s injury could be a blessing in disguise with Aaron Cruden bringing some spark into the All Blacks starting line up. Liam Messam’s injury will give Steven Luatua a massive test.
I am picking the All Blacks to win, but I think this new Wallabies team with players in their best positions will be more competitive than anticipated. James O’Connor isn’t a first five eighth, while Ben Mowen played well at Number Eight for the Brumbies.
All Blacks by 7 points.
Springboks vs Pumas
The Springboks should be too strong for the Pumas on Saturday, but expect a really physical battle. The Springboks pack will look to pave the way to victory, but it will be interesting to see the quality of the ball that the Springboks backline gets with Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn in the halves. In some ways Morne Steyn is a hero, but in other ways he is a villain. He is a great kicker and plays a certain style of game well, but you wonder if he is limiting the ability of the Springboks to change their game and be a genuine threat to world rugby.
I enjoy watching the Pumas play, but they will struggle without captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. They have plenty of flair, but may be a bit outmuscled by the Springboks. Francois Louw is a player to watch in the Springboks pack. It will be interesting to see how Bismarck du Plessis and Fourie du Preez go off the bench.
Springboks by 12 points.
Who are you picking to win in The Rugby Championship Round 1? Can the Wallabies beat the All Blacks? Can the Pumas beat the Springboks?