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Thursday, December 1, 2022

'It's massive, a final' – All Blacks eye Rugby Championship title

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Wellington – All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith said on Monday that it was “very special” to host Australia at Eden Park on Saturday with the chance to clinch The Rugby Championship title.

New Zealand play the Wallabies in Auckland having already secured the Bledisloe Cup for the 20th straight season following a last-gasp 39-37 win over Australia in Melbourne last Thursday.

The Rugby Championship will be decided by this weekend’s nail-biting last round of matches with both New Zealand and South Africa tied on 14 points at the top of the table.

New Zealand last lost to Australia at Eden Park in 1986, but the All Blacks know that should they slip up, the Springboks will be waiting to take full advantage when they play Argentina in Durban later on Saturday.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith told reporters in Auckland.

“It’s massive, it’s a final and to be part of a game like this is very special.”

The All Blacks needed a Jordie Barrett try at the death to deny Australia a fight-back win last Thursday and Smith says New Zealand know they must produce a better performance.

“The Wallabies will always front up physically, they will pick a team which will try to beat us up,” he warned.

“We have to focus on what we want to clean up as a team.

“This is our last game at home, everything boils down to this weekend and we have given ourselves a shot (at the title).”

The All Blacks must finally shake off the erratic form which plagued them earlier this season in losing to both Ireland and Argentina for the first time in New Zealand.

A win on Saturday would be a third victory in a row.

“There are a few boys who are very scratchy at the moment, which is great, it’s where you want to be on a Monday – not feeling comfortable at all and a bit of an edge in camp,” said New Zealand playmaker Beauden Barrett.

“We didn’t put an 80-minute performance together (against Australia) and that is the challenge this week.”


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