TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia will be determined to avoid a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep and lay down a marker less than a year before next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan when they take on New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday.
With the All Blacks having already retained the Bledisloe Cup after winning the first two games of the series in Sydney and Auckland, the two sides will see the dead rubber as a chance to familiarise themselves with the city and stadium that will host the World Cup final on Nov. 2, 2019.
Despite securing the Rugby Championship for the seventh consecutive season, All Blacks will not be resting on their laurels, knowing that the Wallabies beat them to finish the Bledisloe Cup series last year.
That 23-18 victory in Brisbane was the only time Australia have beaten their arch-rivals in the past 10 meetings and New Zealand have now possessed the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.
“We didn’t do it right last year and this time we want to go out and perform with a performance to be proud of,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said on Thursday.
“It’s Australia – whether you are 24 or 104 everyone knows what it is like between the two countries. We want to beat each other.”
World champions New Zealand will play Japan on Nov. 3 before travelling to Europe for test matches against England, Ireland and Italy as they ramp up preparations for the World Cup.
But Hansen is looking at this test match as a stand alone challenge.
“The Bledisloe is already gone so it is a one off test match with winner takes all so we need to be right on top of our game,” he emphasised.
“To be honest I haven’t been looking at what they have been doing until very recently,” added Hansen.
“They have put themselves under a lot of pressure, I guess, by not winning but they are a side that doesn’t lack confidence. I think their comeback against Argentina has really set them up right.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika will be hoping the Wallabies build on their win over Argentina earlier this month as they look to recover from a disappointing Rugby Championship, where they lost at least once to every opponent and finished in third place, 16 points behind the champion All Blacks.
The All Blacks have certainly had the edge over their rivals in recent years, leaving the Wallabies desperate for a positive result on neutral ground.
“You get sick and tired of losing to them,” scrumhalf Will Genia said earlier this week.
“But you also love playing them...That’s a privilege because I love playing the best so you can’t get hung up completely on the ‘we lost and (the) disappointment.”
Genia has only been on the winning side three times in 24 meetings with the All Blacks.
The two sides have met once before in Japan, when the All Blacks ran out 32-19 victors in 2009 at Tokyo’s former National Stadium.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty