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Temperatures rise ahead of Bledisloe clash

Temperatures rise ahead of Bledisloe clash

As both teams get hit by injuries to key men, the temperature has started to rise in New Zealand ahead of the Tri-Nations kick-off.

Australia have named Nathan Sharpe, the Queensland Reds second row, as captain in the absence through injury of George Gregan for the first match of this year’s Tri-Nations series and Bledisloe Cup encounter between the world’s two form teams.

Sharpe captained the Australia U-21 team in 1999 but hasn’t much captaincy experience since. Eddie Jones isn’t concerned however, as he has two strong vice-captains at his side in Stephen Larkham and Phil Waugh.

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Chris Whitaker takes over at scrumhalf as Gregan hasn’t yet recovered from the injury sustained against the hard-hitting Pacific Islands that necessitated his retirement. Whitaker has only played 70 minutes rugby in the last month.

Meanwhile, Richie McCaw, despite being selected initially will be missing for the All Blacks as he has had a recurrence of the headaches afflicting him after the first test against England. McCaw missed the second test against England but played the following week against Argentina, suggesting that the old 3-week rule for concussion has its merits. Marty Holah will deputise.

Better news for the Blacks is that Doug Howlett returns fom injury to take his place.

The teams meet for the first time sine Australia blew New Zealand out of the World Cup in the semi-final by 22-10, despite losing both last year’s Tri-Nations matches (21-17 in Auckland and 50-21 in Sydney). Having looked imperious in winning their first four test this season, the All Blacks are favourites.

As if further spice was needed for this match, Justin Marshall has publicly said that he wants the chance to meet up with George Smith again. Marshall is still somewhat aggrieved with the tackle with which Smith ended his World Cup, claiming it was late and dangerous. “I still hold a slight grudge. It’s not something I go out in a game thinking about, but if an opportunity presents itself, I’ll try and get him back.” Marshall told NZPA. Smith is named on the bench.

For good measure, Marshall has suggestd that the Aussies were a bit soft in their approach to their test against the extremely physical Pacific Islands. “I think Australia fell into the trap of worrying about the physical nature of the game rather than getting out there and playing a Test match,” said Marshall. Who said Eddie Jones had the patent on pre-match kiddology?

The lineups for the weekend are:


15. Chris Latham
14. Clyde Rathbone
13. Stirling Mortlock
12. Matt Giteau
11. Lote Tuqiri
10. Stephen Larkham
9. Chris Whitaker
8. David Lyons
7. Phil Waugh
6. Radike Samo
5. Nathan Sharpe
4. Justin Harrison
3. Al Baxter
2. Brendan Cannon
1. Bill Young

Jeremy Paul; Matt Dunning; Daniel Vickerman; George Smith; Matt Henjak; Matt Burke; Wendell Sailor

New Zealand

New Zealand:
15 Mils Muliaina
14 Doug Howlett
13 Tana Umaga (captain)
12 Daniel Carter
11 Joe Rokocoko
10 Carlos Spencer
9 Justin Marshall
8 Xavier Rush
7 Marty Holah
6 Jono Gibbes
5 Keith Robinson
4 Chris Jack
3 Carl Hayman
2 Keven Mealamu
1 Kees Meeuws
16 Andrew Hore, 17 Greg Somerville, 18 Jerry Collins, 19 Craig Newby
20 Byron Kelleher, 21 Nick Evans, 22 Sam Tuitupou