By Scott Donaldson
The All Blacks are the hot favourites to win the Rugby Championship in 2013. Can anyone beat them?
The All Blacks won the Rugby Championship in 2012 with an unbeaten campaign winning all six matches and so it is difficult to know if any of the other teams will be able to knock them off their top position. The All Blacks are hot favourites according to the bookies, while Argentina are paying $100 for every dollar invested at some bookies.
Here are the Rugby Championship 2013 team list squads
The crazy thing is that the All Blacks were far from convincing with some of their performances, but still did enough when it counted to win all six matches. Their away wins in South Africa and Argentina were probably the highlights, while keeping Australia to nil in a test was also satisfying. Are some of the All Blacks getting too old? One look at their squad suggests that some of the Rugby World Cup 2011 winners are getting on. They have had the luxury of introducing some quality young players in the loose forwards (Steven Luatua) and halfback (TJ Perenara), but other positions like midfield and hooker will rely predominantly on older, more experienced players. It will be interesting to see if this team can continue through until the Rugby World Cup 2015. I actually feel for Piri Weepu who has been left out, because he had a good Super Rugby 2013 campaign.
The Springboks are the second favourites. The main talking point is the inclusion of Fourie du Preez in the squad. The Springboks haven’t been as strong in recent seasons, but are probably the most likely to threaten the All Blacks this season. Morne Steyn is so crucial for their chances and unfortunately while he is a great kicker, his attacking play can be somewhat limited. The rule interpretations have changed and other teams have figured out the Springboks somewhat.
I am also interested to see who plays Number Eight since Pierre Spies is out injured, lock without Andries Bekker and whether Adriaan Strauss or Bismarck du Plessis starts at hooker. The Springboks start against Argentina in Round 1 and will be looking for a promising start.
The Wallabies under new coach Ewen McKenzie will be blooding plenty of new players in The Rugby Championship 2013. McKenzie is stamping his authority on the Wallabies squad with Quade Cooper likely to be given some opportunities this season, but will it be in the Number 10 jersey? It will be interesting to see how he handles the hot seat against the All Blacks. There are eight new caps and 11 Brumbies in the squad of 30 named by coach McKenzie. McKenzie has an eye on the Rugby World Cup 2015 with the average age of the Wallabies squad being under 25 years old. Stephen Moore is the oldest player in the squad aged 30. Big Benn Robinson was the most notable omission from the Wallabies squad.
I think it will take Ewen McKenzie a while to get his team firing. I think that they need a consistently good first five eighth and in Quade Cooper they don’t have that at this level. I think they could be better to blood Matt Toomua, Bernard Foley or Christian Lealifano in that position.
The Argentinian Pumas were a great addition to the Rugby Championship last season. They were very competitive especially at home where they secured a draw against the Springboks. They still seem to struggle against the All Blacks. You must remember that Argentina aren’t used to playing so many test matches in a short space of time against the best teams in the world. I think it would be reasonable to expect Argentina to get one win this season as they get used to playing at this level.
To put things into perspective, Argentina has some players who are unattached and while this could be a great opportunity for them to gain a contract, it is hardly going to breath fear into the hearts of their opponents. Argentina was thrashed by England in a three match series earlier this year, but their squad only includes four players from that series. Juan Martin Hernandez and Felipe Contepomi bring experience and kicking ability to this team. Argentina does have some quality players like the hot stepping winger Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Number Eight Juan Fernandez Lobbe, lock Patricio Albacete along with a powerful front row. Last season their combinations and depth was tested. They bring a powerful pack and fast slippery backs.
The All Blacks should win the Rugby Championship 2013 with only the bravest punters likely to disagree. The Springboks should be difficult to beat at home, but are they too predictable? It will be interesting to see how Ewen McKenzie’s Wallabies team goes especially if Quade Cooper is playing. The Pumas are rank outsiders, but it would be good to see them win a game!
Can anyone beat the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship 2013? Have your say here
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