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OPINION: When the All Blacks face Australia in a Bledisloe Cup decider at Eden Park on Saturday night, we may find out if this is a blip or the end of an era for Steve Hansen’s side. Ben Coles looks at some of the issues behind the world champions’ recent decline.
Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup clash will be the third outing for Richie Mo’unga at first five-eighth and Beauden Barrett at fullback in as many tests, which suggests one of two things.
Either the All Blacks coaching staff have seen enough and are convinced that having both playmakers on the pitch is the way forward and want them to grow. Or, the combination urgently needs more time to click and therefore requires more time.
Mo’unga and Barrett playing together works in theory. Having two excellent distributors generates more width and increases New Zealand’s chances of finding tries out wide, while also improving the tactical kicking.
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* All Blacks and their acid test
* How the Wallabies won in 1986
* Wallabies prepare for black-lash
Mo’unga has also been one of the more accurate goalkickers in Super Rugby over the past three years – when the Crusaders have won three titles – and with Barrett’s own goalkicking in decline, Mo’unga is a valuable alternative.
Against Australia, Mo’unga and Barrett had little ball to work with given the pack’s struggles up front. It works as a combination on paper. Which leaves two key, hard questions. Is the combination worth moving one of your best players, full-back Ben Smith, out of po
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