Courageous Bledisloe selection calls prove that the wallabies are in excellent…

“We’re still miles away from where we need to be.”

That was Dave Rennie’s take on the Wallabies versus All Blacks draw at Bledisloe 1, and yesterday’s selection for Bledisloe 2 proved it wasn’t just an idle chat.

It was a surprise to see four players join the team after the 16-man standoff in Wellington – a result not a single Australian rugby fan would have weakened if offered before the game.

However, the changes appeal to a trainer who knows exactly what he is looking for from the wallabies.

Striker coach Geoff Parling may have spoken about the need to support players on Thursday but, ultimately, Rennie’s job is to win rugby matches rather than reward men who have been on the field during a decent result but below their personal Best performance.

The Australian lineout was poor in Game 1 in terms of both the quality of the ball produced and the number of throws lost, especially in the first half. The attack cleaning of the site was similarly imprecise.

Seen through this lens, the changes make perfect sense. Ned Hanigan isn’t the same underdeveloped player still figuring out how to play his role that Wallabies fans have seen as a regular under Michael Cheika. He’s been a strong lineout operator for the Waratahs this year, offering a bigger, heavier body in contact than Pete Samu.

Ned Hanigan: much improved. (Photo by Mark Kolbe / Getty Images)

Liam Wright doesn’t have such a solid frame yet, but backpacks his head back home and is a better lineout recipient than Rob Valetini.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa offers a less certain improvement there, but it is worth considering how many of the Reds’ problems in this particular set piece situation are more due to the team’s system than their whore.

As Parling pointed out after his appointment, the Queensland Whore was one of the best throwers in super rugby in 2019, and Paenga-Amosa himself said in late September that after an initial learning curve, setting up the national lineout would be less complex than his red equivalent. If you bring him together with teammate Taniela Tupou, the front row should also have more of a head start at Scrum time.

Adding Jordan Petaia for Noah Lolesio, who didn’t get off his jaw last week, is a breeze: Matt To’omua can cover half the fly should James O’Connor fall injured; Reece Hodge or Hunter Paisami can both go up to 12 if To’omua goes down. and Petaia is a star in the queue. A player of his skill set is wallabies, and his injury history makes it a prudent decision to put him on the bench.

So every single change has strong merits, but taken together they indicate an excellent demeanor from the Wallabies brainstrust that recognizes that it would be foolhardy to roll out the same team and expect a similar or better result against the All Blacks.

For a team that can’t practice a lot, New Zealand is incredibly good at responding to losses.

The last time Australia beat New Zealand was a week later. (Photo by Renee McKay / Getty Images)

Between 2015 and 2020, they only lost eight of their 65 tests. In the games immediately following these setbacks, they defeated their collective opposition 339-93. That speaks of a team that doesn’t welcome adversity so much, but is downright hostile to the perception that they may not be the best team in the world.

Yes, the Bledisloe 1 thriller wasn’t a defeat, but much of the reaction to the outcome was reminiscent of one. Captain Sam Cane was gutted in his post-game interview. Selector Grant Fox resisted criticism during an appearance on The breakdown. Assistant coach John Plumtree claimed All Blacks did not complain about umpires shortly after complaining about the umpire.

So one can assume that tomorrow the reaction on the field will be as violent as if it were assuming a loss. Coupled with a trip to Auckland, this has meant nothing but a catastrophe for the Wallabies lately.

Two of the eight aforementioned All Blacks bounceback games took place at Eden Park against Australia. The combined goal line? 77-13.

The venue factor will play a role on Sunday, but it was encouraging to hear the Wallabies talking about this being just another full-size soccer field rather than an incredible fortress that will act as the 16th man for the home team .

The New Zealand selection will have a bigger impact now that Ian Foster selects a stronger team than the one used for Game 1. Anton Lienert-Brown will represent a significant defensive improvement in Reiko Ioane’s midfield, as will Beauden Barrett at the full-back.

Beauden Barrett: practical addition. (Phil Walter / Getty Images)

Losing George Bridge is a blow, but the All Blacks don’t lack wingers. Caleb Clarke showed in his short stint last week that his powerful running game will pose a major threat to the wallabies’ defense.

Even so, there are still weaknesses. Foster didn’t get its full worth from Jordie Barrett when he was way out last week, but he’ll put on the # 14 jersey again when the clear objective is to find a spot for your best players rather than your best give players in every position.

The pairing between Jack Goodhue and Lienert-Brown is strong indeed, but with Goodhue in the outside center and his partner in the second five it would look even stronger, not the other way around.

The main weakness, however, is in the castle. With Sam Whitelock excluded from going through the HIA protocols, Patrick Tuipulotu and Tupou Vaa’i remain on the bench as starters with Scott Barrett. One of these second rowers has 14 minutes of testing experience, another has not played professional rugby since March.

It’s a clear area for the wallabies to take advantage of, and you can rest assured that Hanigan, who has played disruptor multiple times this super rugby season, will be preparing to ruin the New Zealand lineout.

So a chance for the wallabies to break that Eden Park hoodoo?

So, technically, every Bledisloe game in Auckland is an opportunity to break that streak of horror, but this match is again the All Blacks game to lose. You’ll expect enough improvement from the players who kept them from Game 1 to score a win, and that’s before you even think about the advantage of adding Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown to the mix .

But winning is not the standard the wallabies should adhere to. Just like we saw an improvement over 2019 last week, further progress should be expected this weekend, whether it ends in a win, loss or some other draw.

From their selection, it appears that Rennie and his coaching staff have the attitude. Improvement on the field, rather than the backlash that has so often happened after their promising performances against the All Blacks in recent years, will indeed prove that this team is headed in exactly the right direction.

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