Bledisloe Cup III: Perth Test has a vastly different look, but will it make a difference?

The All Blacks may have tucked the Bledisloe back into the cabinet for a 19th year, but the Rugby Championship is only just gathering momentum.

Sunday's Test between the Wallabies and All Blacks in Perth has been a long time coming, with West Australian rugby fans twice having had the match date shifted due to the COVID outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand, and the general uncertainty around where the Rugby Championship was going to be played.

But with the tournament dates and venues now rubber-stamped in Queensland, and the Springboks and Pumas entrenched in their quarantine facilities, the focus can shift to the on-field action and not the trans-Tasman war of words that look to have been quietened by Monday's Super Rugby Pacific announcement.

The Wallabies will be desperate to avoid a Bledisloe Cup sweep, but they'll have to improve dramatically from their second-half effort in Auckland three weeks ago.

Read on as we analyse some of the key factors for Sunday's Test in Perth.


Samu Kerevi's addition to the Wallabies squad following his Tokyo Sevens stint perhaps caught a few people off guard. It was well within Dave Rennie's right to bring him into the fold, of course, given the expanded remit of the Giteau Law, but even the centre himself had prepared for the fact that he may never wear the gold jersey again.

But here he is, back in the Wallabies' midfield, at the venue when he trampled Beauden Barrett with more than just a touch of the Jonah Lomu-Mike Catt moment from the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The big question mark surrounds Kerevi's match fitness. After a season in the up-tempo Japanese Top League, where he said he actually played heavier than his previous weight in Super Rugby, Kerevi trimmed down for the Olympic Sevens.

And he was arguably Australia's best player in Tokyo, scoring key tries in the vital pool game against New Zealand even though Tim Walsh's side would lose that match and go on to finish in a disappointing seventh position.

The week's delay of Sunday's Test will be in Kerevi's favour, given that it will have afforded him an extra seven days' training and the chance to further familiarise himself with a Wallabies squad that is vastly different to the one he was a part of at the 2019 World Cup.

It will however be a first Test alongside Len Ikitau, who himself will be making just his second run-on Test start.

Defensively, that could cause some issues with a Wallabies team that let in 57 points in Auckland last month. But there is no doubting what Kerevi can add in attack, particularly if the Australian forwards can lay a similar platform to the one they provided at the same ground in 2019.

The memory of Kerevi running down the left touchline, bulldozing Barrett and finding Nic White back on the inside for a try, was one of the few highlights of an otherwise disappointing conclusion to the Michael Cheika era.

The Rennie era has hit some serious hurdles in the last few weeks as well.

How much the coach would love a repeat of Kerevi's heroics from 2019. A similar performance from the Fijian-born Queenslander would only add to the shifting Giteau Law narrative, too.


If the Wallabies could select three players to remove from the All Blacks line-up, it's likely they'd pluck halves Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga straight out, and then flip a coin on stand-in skipper Sam Whitelock and his locking partner Brodie Retallick.

Well, what do you know? The pregnancy gods have aligned to keep Smith, Mo'unga and Whitelock in New Zealand as the key All Blacks prepare to welcome new additions to their respective families.

They are unlikely to be sighted in the black jersey again until the closing two Tests of the Rugby Championship against South Africa. But that in turn has created opportunities for and both Scott and Beauden Barrett.

The Barrett boys are each in an interesting position. Beauden, for one, is now well behind Mo'unga as the All Blacks first-choice fly-half, and with the twin playmaker setup effectively put on ice, a long stint on the bench looms while ever the Crusaders star is fit and healthy.

Scott Barrett, meanwhile, returns to the scene of one of his darkest moments when he shoulder-charged Michael Hooper to the head, earning himself a red card in the process. It was complete brainfade, which the All Blacks coaching staff later described as something Scott Barrett needed to get out of his game.

Sunday's Test is a huge opportunity for the pair regardless, and perhaps the first of three games in the run-on side.

It is also a rare start for Brad Weber, who is more of the like-for-like replacement for Smith at scrum-half.


A team could go an entire Test season and not come close to throwing an intercept, yet somehow the Wallabies have thrown three in two Tests - and have paid a huge toll on each occasion.

Hunter Paisami, Noah Lolesio and Matt To'omua have been the guilty parties, the latter two committing their errors on the first phase after turnover ball, which will have only added to the frustrations of Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

Rennie made a point after each Test of highlighting the fact that there was space "in behind" the All Blacks' defensive line and that instead of trying to throw the hero pass, Australia should be looking to drop the ball onto the foot and into the corner.

They have had three weeks to think about how a similar play might unfold, and to train themselves out of what was a costly habit in both of the Eden Park Tests.


There were more than just a few raised eyebrows across the ditch when Ardie Savea was given the honour of replacing Sam Whitelock as the All Blacks skipper for at least the next three Tests.

The push, from the south island anyway, was for hooker Codie Taylor to take over which meant there was great surprise when he wasn't even named as one of the team's new vice captains.

Those roles were instead handed to Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick, who have been mainstays of the All Blacks squad through two World Cup cycles.

Savea has experience captaining the Hurricanes, though he missed a chunk of this season with injury, and he is very much in the lead-by-example style of skipper; few other players across the rugby world have the ability to carry defenders like the backrower does.

But his ability to manage referees (with Sunday's being Australian Damon Murphy) is still a work in progress. That is not a shot at Savea - maintaining calm dialogue with officials is a skill in itself, and something that has taken Michael Hooper multiple seasons to develop.

The captaincy matchup is an interesting one: Who could forget French referee Jerome Garces penalizing Savea for pushing Hooper's head into the ground in Perth two years ago? It was indeed a relatively minor offence, but one you simply cannot commit when the 'C' is next to your name.


It's clear that the Wallabies and All Blacks are on better terms with one another since Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen both departed after the 2019 World Cup.

Hansen made a habit of baiting Cheika into outburst throughout their coaching battles, which the Australian more often than not reacted to and the New Zealand media had a field day playing up. There was also the ugly "bug-gate" scandal from Sydney, which later turned out to be an inside job from the All Blacks head of security.

All in all, the Hansen-Cheika years were always a touch frosty.

Relations had been far more civil under Rennie and All Blacks counterpart Ian Foster, with the two teams sharing a beer together after their Tests this year and last. Scrum-halves Tate McDermott, Nic White, Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara have shown their respective jersey swaps on social media, with Perenara writing a message for White's eldest son who apparently loves the Kiwi's leadership of the haka.

But there might just be that little extra bit of feeling in this one given what happened off the field amid the scramble to settle on a location for the closing four rounds of the Rugby Championship. While much of the public slanging was confined to the New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia officials, Rennie did unleash what many thought was a necessary verbal on the NZR administrators.

Describing himself as "bloody angry", the Wallabies coach made perfectly reasonable points about his own team's quarantine responsibilities and the fact they had agreed to two Tests at Eden Park, which virtually meant the series was done before a ball was kicked.

It was a rare explosion from a man who is usually very calm but who now says he has an even greater distrust for NZR, a body he wasn't particularly enamoured with while he was coaching in New Zealand.

Can he use a touch of that frustration to fire the Wallabies up? It would be a move more out of the Cheika playbook, that's for sure.