Ian Foster has backed his New Zealand team to banish their home blues in Saturday's Rugby Championship tussle with Argentina at Waikato Stadium.

The All Blacks have lost their last three Tests at home for the first time in their history, with two defeats to Ireland followed by last week's shock 25-18 loss to Argentina in Christchurch.

They had only lost three times across their prior 73 games on home soil (W67, D3, L3), so this is a crisis and head coach Foster must find a solution.

He has picked an unchanged XV, saying his team have trained well this week and trusting them to deliver a display "everyone can be proud of".

"But we've been pretty ruthless and hard on ourselves behind the scenes," Foster said. "We are hurting with where the team's at."

His belief is that the players who suffered so badly last week should play again, with the purpose of them regaining confidence. That could always backfire.

While New Zealand and Argentina go head to head in Hamilton, Australia and South Africa clash at Sydney's new Allianz Stadium.

Here, Stats Perform previews the weekend clashes in round four of the championship using Opta data.

 

NEW ZEALAND v ARGENTINA

FORM

Foster would surely struggle to ride out the criticism if his team are beaten again by the Pumas, who will be aiming for back-to-back wins in men's Tests against New Zealand for the first time.

New Zealand have lost four of their six Tests in 2022 (W2) and only twice in their history have they lost more in a calendar year (L6 – 1949 and L5 – 1998).

The All Blacks have gained more metres (1,321) and made more offloads (27) than any other team in the Rugby Championship this year, but they have not made the most of those statistical wins.

Argentina are seeking a third consecutive win in the tournament, having never achieved such a run before, and they have the best success rate on lineout throws of any team (90 per cent – 37/41); however, no team have stolen more opposition lineouts in the competition this year than New Zealand (6).

ONES TO WATCH

New Zealand number eight Ardie Savea has made more carries (36) and offloads (6) than any other player in the tournament, while his 24 tackles ranks second among All Blacks (Sam Cane – 30).

Argentina are the kings of the tackle, making 145 tackles per game so far – the most by any team. Marcos Kremer (42), Tomas Lavanini (39), Julian Montoya (38) and Pablo Matera (33) have made more tackles than any other players across all the four competing teams.

AUSTRALIA v SOUTH AFRICA

FORM

The 25-18 win last week in Adelaide means Australia have won each of their last three men's Tests against South Africa after winning just one in six previously (D2, L3). The last time the Wallabies enjoyed a longer winning run against the Springboks was a five-match span from September 2010 to September 2012.

They remain without captain Michael Hooper, who has taken time out to deal with personal matters, but have two wins from three games so far in this competition. They had won just one of five games prior to the Rugby Championship getting under way.

Results in Sydney have not been kind to Australia of late, with just one win coming in their last 10 such games (D1, L8), but they have won their last seven matches on the bounce against South Africa in the city.

World champions South Africa have lost their last two Tests, as many as in their eight games prior (W6, L2). Curiously, the Springboks have led at half-time on the day just twice across that 10-game span.

South Africa have the best scrum success rate (19/22) and have won more scrum penalties (7) than any other team in the championship.

ONES TO WATCH

South Africa will be without key centre Lukhanyo Am who has made more line breaks – six – than any other player in this year's Rugby Championship. Jesse Kriel is set to take over from Am in midfield.

In wing Makazole Mapimpi, the Boks at least have the player next on that list with five line breaks. Eight changes to the Boks starting line-up have come about due to injuries and form, with the visitors looking to step up a level after last week's disappointment.

Australia have named an unchanged XV, and Fraser McReight's two tries in Adelaide make him a player to watch. Len Ikitau has made 11 tackle breaks in the campaign so far, the joint-most of any player in the campaign (also Rieko Ioane – 11 for New Zealand).

Michael Hooper does not figure in Australia's plans for the rest of the Rugby Championship, coach Dave Rennie said on Thursday.

Captain Hooper pulled out of the Wallabies team for the series opener against Argentina at the start of August, citing personal reasons, and travelled home from South America.

He said he was unable "to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset", and Australia will not rush Hooper back.

Rennie said: "I've had plenty of contact with Hoops. I'm not going to comment on where he's at and what that looks like. We're not looking to include him in the rest of the Rugby Championship.

"We'll make decisions beyond that, but certainly not looking to rush him in. But he's certainly on the improve."

In Hooper's continuing absence, Australia's starting XV will be unchanged for Saturday's tussle with South Africa at Sydney's new Allianz Stadium, following a 25-17 win over the Springboks last weekend in Adelaide. Jake Gordon, the Waratahs captain, joins the replacements.

Australia and Argentina lead the way in the championship with two wins and one loss each. The Wallabies will wrap up their campaign with home and away games against the All Blacks.

Rennie said: "While rapt with last week's effort, we're well aware of the challenge a wounded Springbok poses and the intensity we will require again on Saturday night."

South Africa named their team on Tuesday, making eight changes, including bringing in Canan Moodie for a debut on the wing.


Wallabies team: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Palsami, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Nic White; James Slipper (captain), Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Matt Philip, Jed Holloway, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.

Replacements: David Porecki, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Andrew Kellaway.

South Africa team: Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian Willemse, Jaden Hendrikse; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Warrick Gelant.

Dave Rennie says captain Michael Hooper has shown "true courage" by withdrawing from Australia's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina.

The flanker opted against facing the Pumas at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Saturday, as he is not in the right frame of mind to play.

James Slipper will step in to lead the Wallabies in Mendonza, with Hooper heading home and Fraser McReight getting a late call to take the number seven shirt.

Australia head coach Rennie praised Hooper for making such a brave decision.

"Michael's one of the most professional and impressive men I've coached I know this has been a difficult decision for him," he said.

"He's shown true courage by acknowledging where he is at and acting on it.

"We will support him in any way we can and I know the team will be focused on getting the job done tomorrow."

Hooper said: "While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time.

"My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don't feel I am able to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset."

Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos says Hooper will be given all the support he needs.

He said: "Michael is an incredible leader, it takes a brave man to identify where he’s at and come forward whilst having the best interests of the team at heart.

"His wellbeing is and remains the highest priority right now where Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby community will do everything to support him and his family."

England head coach Eddie Jones returned serve at Australia's Nic White, who said he was expecting more off-the-ball "niggle" in Saturday's deciding Test in Sydney, describing the Wallabies scrum-half as "the biggest niggler of all time".

With one win apiece both teams are out to secure victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground to decide the three-game series and the preceding two games have set up what should be a fiery encounter.

The Wallabies' Darcy Swain was suspended for a headbutt in the first Test, before cameras caught England prop Ellis Genge driving his elbow into White, as the latter was lying face-down on the ground in the second encounter.

White addressed the situation, asserting that Genge leaning on him was a diplomatic way of putting it, before Jones laughed off his implication about the front-rower.

"He’s got plenty to say. I hardly think he’s entitled to make that comment," the England coach said. "He’s the biggest niggler of all time.

"That makes me laugh. The boy from Queanbeyan who niggles everyone, complaining about niggle. That's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

"Obviously he thinks that and his perception is reality, so he's got a funny way of looking at reality. He's just trying to look for something."

Australian captain Michael Hooper cited White's competitiveness to brush off Jones' comments ahead of the Wallabies' captain's run, but added the series had ultimately been played in a competitive but fair spirit.

"Whitey is just obsessed with rugby," he said. "The guy is an absolute footy nerd. He just wants to play. He's as competitive as you'll see. Most half-backs are. He'll be doing his usual thing tomorrow.

"It's been competitive and enjoyable. Both teams just want to win and we get a chance to see that tomorrow.

"[I am] expecting [niggle] to be an element in tomorrow's game but ultimately tomorrow is all about who is up on the scoreboard and who can do it for longer."

Michael Hooper says Australia are ready to "rip in" and "turn the ledger" on England when they do battle in the first Test on Saturday.

England have won eight consecutive matches against the Wallabies ahead of the showdown at Optus Stadium.

Australia captain Hooper is determined to end that dismal run in Perth this weekend and take a 1-0 lead over Eddie Jones' side in the three-match series

"It's a motivation to win and turn the ledger," he said.

"We have three games at home to do it. It’s been a long time since we’ve played these fellas out here, so we're excited about it.

"It's the top rivalry, isn’t it? Having the Ashes at the back end of last year and this year, the whole of Australian population gets behind whether they're here or in England, it's bragging rights, so it's big for the fans and us.

"There’s some great history between the two teams and two teams rolling into a World Cup next year.

"We're really excited, history hasn’t been in our favour for quite some time now against the English and we're keen to rip in.

"They’re always a tough outfit. They’ve picked a powerful team with some real skill and experience involved there. We’re expecting a tough time."

Hooker David Porecki and lock Cadeyrn Neville will make their Wallabies debuts on Saturday.

At the age of 33 years and 235 days, Neville is to become the third-oldest Australia debutant since World War II.

 

Michael Hooper says Australia are ready to "rip in" and "turn the ledger" on England when they do battle in the first Test on Saturday.

England have won eight consecutive matches against the Wallabies ahead of the showdown at Optus Stadium.

Australia captain Hooper is determined to end that dismal run in Perth this weekend and take a 1-0 lead over Eddie Jones' side in the three-match series

"It's a motivation to win and turn the ledger," he said.

"We have three games at home to do it. It’s been a long time since we’ve played these fellas out here, so we're excited about it.

"It's the top rivalry, isn’t it? Having the Ashes at the back end of last year and this year, the whole of Australian population gets behind whether they're here or in England, it's bragging rights, so it's big for the fans and us.

"There’s some great history between the two teams and two teams rolling into a World Cup next year.

"We're really excited, history hasn’t been in our favour for quite some time now against the English and we're keen to rip in.

"They’re always a tough outfit. They’ve picked a powerful team with some real skill and experience involved there. We’re expecting a tough time."

Hooker David Porecki and lock Cadeyrn Neville will make their Wallabies debuts on Saturday.

At the age of 33 years and 235 days, Neville is to become the third-oldest Australia debutant since World War II.

 

Former rugby league winger Suliasi Vunivalu heads a six-man list of uncapped players selected by Australia for the Test series with England.

Australia coach Dave Rennie named his 35-man squad on Sunday for the three-Test series against Eddie Jones' side, which starts in Perth on July 2.

Jed Holloway, Dave Porecki, lock Cadeyrn Neville and Vunivalu, who switched disciplines in 2019 after a league career with Melbourne Storm, have all been named in their first international squad.

Tighthead prop Pone Fa'amausili and second-rower Nick Frost are the other two uncapped players to be called up, while the in-form Fraser McReight was a notable omission.

The experienced Reece Hodge and Kurtley Beale also missed out through injury, with Michael Hooper leading the Wallabies as captain.

Fly-half Quade Cooper and Fiji-born backs Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete, who all play in Japan, are the three overseas selections allowed to be picked under Rugby Australia rules.

"The core of this squad is a group who have performed strongly for us over the last two seasons, while strong form in Super Rugby Pacific has been rewarded with a handful of new faces," Rennie said.

"The past two years have allowed us to build strong foundations as a group but there's no doubt that we have a lot more in us.

"We're looking forward to working hard and preparing as a group to put in performances that make our supporters proud against England next month."

The group will assemble on the Sunshine Coast from Thursday in preparation for the Optus Stadium opener, with Tests to follow at Brisbane's Lang Park and the Sydney Cricket Ground.
 

Australia squad:

Forwards: Dave Porecki, Lachlan Lonergan, Folau Fainga'a, Taniela Tupou, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Pone Fa'amausili, James Slipper, Angus Bell, Matt Philip, Jed Holloway, Nick Frost, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Michael Hooper (captain), Pete Samu, Harry Wilson, Rob Valetini, Rob Leota

Backs: Nic White, Tate McDermott, Jake Gordon, Quade Cooper, James O'Connor, Noah Lolesio, Samu Kerevi, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese, Len Ikitau, Marika Koroibete, Andrew Kellaway, Tom Banks, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia

Australia captain Michael Hooper will be absent for the Wallabies' final Autumn Nations Series game against Wales on Saturday. 

Hooper was forced off injured during the second half of Australia's 32-15 loss to England at Twickenham last weekend, which followed a 15-13 defeat to Scotland. 

The Wallabies confirmed on Twitter that scans carried out on the flanker revealed he had suffered a midfoot sprain and would be unavailable to take on Wales at the Principality Stadium. 

The news came after Hooper was revealed to be one of four players in contention for the World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year award. He is up against Antoine Dupont, Maro Itoje and Samu Kerevi in the fan vote. 

Australia have only won two of their past 10 away Tests against European teams, losing eight. However, one of those victories came against Wales in Cardiff in 2017. 

South Africa will attempt to spoil Michael Hooper's record-breaking Australia appearance when the Springboks go on a Rugby Championship revenge mission on Saturday.

Hooper will captain the Wallabies for a 60th time at Suncorp Stadium, surpassing the number of times George Gregan led Australia out.

A special occasion for the skipper will come six days after Quade Cooper marked his international return by kicking a dramatic winning penalty against the Boks on the Gold Coast.

Holders South Africa were consigned to a stunning 28-26 defeat in Queensland and trail leaders New Zealand by five points.

Australia are unbeaten in six Tests against the Springboks on home soil ahead of the round-four showdown, after achieving their first win of this year's tournament last weekend.

The All Blacks have maximum points from three matches and can take another stride towards regaining the title by beating Argentina.

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta facts to preview the Rugby Championship double-header in Brisbane.

 


AUSTRALIA V SOUTH AFRICA

Form

South Africa will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in men's Tests for the first time since November 2018.

Australia have not won back-to-back Tests since October 2019 and may need to show their staying power once again to get their hands on the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate.

Dave Rennie's side have scored 27 points in the final quarter of games in this tournament, more than any other quarter of a match.

Nic White, James Slipper and Taniela Tupou come into the Australia team. Jacques Nienaber makes three changes to South Africa's matchday squad, with Marvin Orie and Trevor Nyakane starting. Cheslin Kolbe is not ready to return from injury.

 

Ones to watch

Andrew Kellaway scored Australia's only try in last week's win over the world champions.

The wing is the joint-leading try-scorer in the tournament with three, alongside David Havili and Malcolm Marx. 

With Lood de Jager absent due to concussion, Orie takes over at lock for South Africa.

De Jager has won a competition-high 22 lineouts, including three steals, so Orie has big shoes to fill.

 

ARGENTINA V NEW ZEALAND

Form

The All Blacks dished out a 39-0 thrashing to Argentina in round three, Luke Jacobson scoring two of their five tries.

New Zealand have kept the Pumas scoreless in each of their past two meetings and have only failed to beat them in two of 32 previous encounters.

Argentina have lost three consecutive Tests, having lost only twice in their 10 prior to that run.

Joe Moody comes into a much-changed All Blacks side and Ardie Savea returns as captain, while Samisoni Taukei'aho makes his first Test start. Patrick Tuipulotu and Ofa Tuungafasi are also among the starters.

Santiago Carreras starts for Argentina at fly-half, while Pablo Matera takes the number eight shirt as Mario Ledesma makes six changes.

 

Ones to watch

The versatile Damian McKenzie gets the chance to start a second Test at fly-half for the All Blacks.

Playmaker McKenzie can put on a show at number 10 and pull the strings in tandem with scrum-half TJ Perenara.

Pumas captain Julian Montoya won three turnovers in the defeat to the All Blacks last weekend and his tally of four is twice as many as any other player in the tournament.

Montoya has not missed any of his 40 tackles in the competition.

Michael Hooper will become the Wallabies' most-capped captain when he leads Australia out against world champions South Africa.

The Wallabies announced their side for Saturday's clash with the Springboks as Hooper prepares to make history in the Rugby Championship showdown at Suncorp Stadium.

Hooper – who debuted in 2012 – will captain Australia for the 60th time in Brisbane, surpassing George Gregan after equalling the record in last week's dramatic victory over South Africa.

"It's an incredible milestone for Hoops on Saturday evening in Brisbane and it's a testament to him as a person and a player," Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie said on Thursday.

"I've been so impressed with his leadership both on and off the field and his drive to be better every day.

"We were really proud of the effort from our men last Sunday and we're well aware of the ferocity that a wounded Springboks outfit will bring to Suncorp Stadium."

Rennie has elevated Nic White and Taniela Tupou to the starting side for the second Test against the Springboks.

White replaces Tate McDermott and Tupou comes in for Allan Alaalatoa, while James Slipper returns to the starting line-up, though James O'Connor remains on the sidelines.

Australia will be looking to claim consecutive Test wins in men's international rugby for the first time since October 2019 after a two-point win over South Africa – that was also the last time the Wallabies won a Test by more than three points.

The Wallabies are undefeated in their last six men's Tests against South Africa on home soil (W5, D1); although, none of their five wins in that span have come by a margin of seven points or more on the day.

 

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, Angus Bell, Tom Robertson, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

Quade Cooper will make a remarkable return for the Wallabies after being named to play for the first time since 2017 when Australia face South Africa on Sunday.

Cooper had been part of Australia's squad for the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand, but was not used in any of the three Tests which the All Blacks comfortably won.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice for the Rugby Championship showdown against South Africa on the Gold Coast, with 33-year-old Cooper named at fly-half, displacing 21-year-old Noah Lolesio.

Cooper's career has taken several turns since his last cap in 2017 against Italy, frozen out at Brad Thorn's Reds in Super Rugby, before a one-year stint at the Rebels and a move to play in Japan in 2019.

"He's had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he's excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night," Rennie said.

Angus Bell will earn his first start in the front-row, while Izack Rodda also comes into the starting line-up, with the backline unchanged.

Wallabies hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and back-rower Rob Leota are in line for debuts off the bench.

The match will see Australia captain Michael Hooper equal George Gregan's record for most Tests as Wallabies skipper when he steps out for the 59th time.

Meanwhile, Brodie Retallick has been named as captain for New Zealand after a head knock to Ardie Savea ahead of their Test against Argentina on Sunday.

Hooker Asafo Aumua will make his first Test start for the All Blacks, while prop Joe Moody returns following foot surgery via the bench.

"Brodie is a great leader in this team and we don't take his leadership for granted," said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "We think this is a great honour for him, and he and his family can be hugely proud. 

"He's playing really well and leads from the front. He has come back into the black jersey this year and just picked up where he left off.

"He also has an experienced partner in Beaudy [Barrett] alongside him who is bringing a calmness to the team and a sense of direction and we’re seeing that in the way he plays."

 

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu'inukuafe, Asafo Aumua, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson.
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Joe Moody, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'I, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane.

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