World champions New Zealand must battle the loss of some of the game’s greats and their opponents desire for revenge, as they prepare for the start of the Rugby Championship this weekend.
But even in the face of change and some adversity, the All Blacks remain favourites to regain the title they lost to Australia last year.
New Zealand travel to Sydney to face Australia on Saturday for what promises to be a feisty meeting of old foes.
The All Blacks defeated Australia 34-17 in last year’s World Cup final and there has been ’n klomp bekgevegtery since between NZ coach Steve Hansen and Aussie counterpart Michael Cheika after the Wallabies suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss to England in June.
It is likely, therefore, the All Blacks will face a vengeful, hurting Australia, who have brought back a number of their overseas-based, experienced players to bolster the squad that competed against England.
In contrast, Hansen is rebuilding following the retirement of players who have become synonymous with All Black jersey over the past decade in influential captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
And with Cheika suggesting Hansen has some tough calls to make in terms of selection, the All Blacks coach hits back: “It’s good of the Australian coach to start picking our team.
“I’d say he’s got enough problems of his own, probably. But we’ll pick ours and he can pick his and he’ll have a lot to say, no doubt.”