All Blacks v Australia Prediction
Author: Tim Cronin
Round Two of the Championship gets underway at the scene of last year's World Cup Final, Eden Park, as the All Blacks host the Wallabies. Eden Park has been a very unhappy hunting ground for the Aussies, and it will be a stunning upset should they win on the weekend.
Steve Hansen has made just one change to his side that beat the Wallabies last weekend, bringing Wyatt Crockett straight in to the starting side to replace the injured Tony Woodcock.
Robbie Deans on the otherhand, has had to deal with injuries to key personnel as well as serious questions over both his game plan, and the ability of some of his players. The Wallabies get things very right on the night they could cop a hiding, and I think the All Blacks will win this one by at least 20.
Will Genia will captain the side in the absence of David Pocock, with young Brumbies flanker Michael Hooper taking Pocock's number 7 jersey over. But it is the backline which displays the most obvious signs of a side in some turmoil. The up-and-down Quade Cooper will be trying to exorcise the demons of a horror Semi-Final against the All Blacks at the same venue in the World Cup as he comes back in to the side at 10, with Berrick Barnes shuffling out to 12. Adam Ashley-Cooper has been given the task of securing the back after a woeful performance by the out-of-sorts Kurtley Beale last weekend, and he's sure to have plenty of work to do, with the likes of Israel Dagg and Hosea Gear on fine form, and Sonny Bill Williams playing his last game in the black jersey before heading off-shore.
In Argentina, Los Pumas will host their first home game in the Southern Hemisphere's premier competition when the Springboks make the trip over from the Republic.
The Boks won comfortably in Cape Town last week, but were widely criticised by their own media for the way they allowed the Argentinians to compete and contest at the breakdown. The introduction of Jacques Potgieter to the loose forward trio looks to be coach Heyneke Meyer's attempt to solve this issue, and all three loosies will have to be right on top of their game, with the side missing the inspirational Bismarck Du Plessis, who, while a hooker, plays very much as the side's fourth loose forward.
This game hinges on the outcome of the first half. The home side will have a passionate, parochial crowd behind them, and if they are in with a sniff in the dying moments that support could well get them across the line. But on paper the Boks are a far superior side, and as long as they collect their points when they're on offer, and execute their game plan with accuracy, they will prevail. My pick? Springboks by 10.