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  • 03 Jun
    Its time for a change of pace in the southern hemisphere as rugby fans forget their provincial allegiances and channel Olympic fervour in preparation for the Test season. The Rugby Championship has arrived and so too the Bledisloe Cup.Sydneys ANZ Stadium plays host to the first of three trans-Tasman battles this year, with the Wallabies out to end the All Blacks 14-year stranglehold on the giant piece of silverware. The Wallabies and their fans could have been forgiven for feeling a sense of optimism at the start of the year given the retirements of all-time greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter among others; but that cheery attitude quickly turned to despair as New Zealands Super Rugby sides again performed strongly while the Australian teams struggled and the Wallabies suffered a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of Eddie Jones England in June.The build-up to Saturdays Test has had its usual bit of tension, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen telling Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika to worry about his own side, a barb that saw the Australian respond with I dont know what hes upset about. It all adds to the spectacle.On the field, it looks like a battle between extended preparation and plain old good form. The Wallabies have been together for almost a month, while New Zealand had three teams involved through to the penultimate weekend of Super Rugby.Team newsAustralia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), Scott Sio. Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Dean Mumm, Scott Fardy, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne.Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has pulled two selection rabbits from his hat, naming Will Genia to play his first game since January and picking Ben McCalman over Scott Fardy in the No. 6 jumper. As expected he also named Genias fellow France-based veterans Adam Ashley-Cooper, on the wing, and inside centre Matt Giteau after missing Australias 3-0 series loss to England in June..New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements:?Dane Coles, Kane Hames, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea.Form won out over reputation in New Zealand with Hansen unable ignore the irresistible selection claims of Beauden Barrett. The Hurricanes No.10 retains the fly-half role he filled in Aaron Crudens absence for the final Test against Wales; Barrett is joined in the backline by the centre combination of Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa.It was a different story up front though with Sam Cane holding onto the No.7 jersey ahead of Ardie Savea, despite the Hurricanes flankers superb Super Rugby season. The All Blacks have been forced into a late change at hooker with Codie Taylor to start after Nathan Harris went down with a knee injury on Friday; that has also forced Dane Coles inclusion on the bench despite Hurricanes skippers ongoing battle with a rib injury.Key matchup: Matt Giteau vs. Ryan CrottyIt may not have been greeted with the same glowing reception as last year, but the Giteau Law is in full effect once more with the veteran playmaker for whom it is named back at No.12. Yes, the likes of Mark Ella and veteran scribe Spiro Zavos may have an issue with foreign eligibility, but there can be little debate as to the impact Giteau made at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Crucially, the Toulon star offers left-foot kicking and second playmaking options, while therell be no Maa Nonu or Sonny Bill Williams charging down his defensive channel either.That responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of the ever-reliable Ryan Crotty. The Crusaders centre certainly doesnt possess the power of Nonu or Williams, but he runs straight and hard and is a classy second distributor. Crotty is also regarded as one of the finest defensive centres in the game, which will be vital with Malakai Fekitoa joining him in midfield; the Highlanders back is one of the hardest hitters in the game, but he is also prone to the odd error, too.Key stats (Opta Stats)Australia have lost their last four Tests in a row and have not lost five on the bounce since a run of seven consecutive defeats in 2005; the fifth defeat in that run came against New Zealand.Steve Hansens side have won their last 11 on the bounce by an average margin of 27 points; only South Africa have managed to finish within 10 points of the All Blacks in that time.The All Blacks have lost just one of their last 13 against Australia (W10, D2); their 10 victories in that run have come by an average margin of 16 points.WeatherSydney is expecting some early showers on Saturday before conditions clear up in the afternoon. Chasing a top of 17 degrees, the temperature will likely hover around 13 from kick-off.UBET verdict: Australia $3, New Zealand $1.40.The Wallabies have only beaten New Zealand once in their past 13 attempts, while the All Blacks havent recorded a win on their past two trips to Sydney, suffering a loss and a draw. They beat the Aussies 34-17 in the World Cup final in London, but the Wallabies did have a very good tournament. However England travelled Down Under in June and whitewashed Australia, winning that series 3-0, so this will be difficult. There is some support for Australia at $3.00, but New Zealand go in as clear favourites on the back of the domination of the Kiwi sides in Super Rugby.PredictionWhitewashed by England, the Wallabies are staring down a fifth straight defeat; that prospect seemed almost unthinkable during last years Rugby World Cup as the Australians rode a wave of momentum right through to the final. Where has it gone wrong? Cheika is on record as saying the Wallabies may be playing too much rugby, prompting suggestions that Australia will look to kick more during the Rugby Championship. Whatever the game plan, they certainly have had the time to refine it. That hasnt been the case for New Zealand, and that perhaps is the only concern for the All Blacks ahead of this one. Will rust be an issue? A 3-0 series win over Wales suggests it wont, and then there is the scintillating form of Barrett. If the All Blacks pack can at the very least achieve parity up front, then its hard to see the Wallabies containing the New Zealand No.c10. He is playing that well.New Zealand by five. Cheap Braves Jerseys . It was just business as usual for the Thunder at home. Durant scored 32 points and the Thunder beat the Bulls 107-95 on Thursday night for their eighth straight win. Authentic Custom Braves Jersey . Darren Helm scored on Detroits sixth attempt in the shootout and then Jonas Gustavsson stopped Andrew Shaws shot, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. http://www.custombravesjersey.com/ . With their top three point guards and Kobe Bryant all sidelined by injury, the Lakers signed Marshall out of the D-League on Friday before their home game against Minnesota. Cheap Custom Braves Jersey . The home side created most of the chances but struggled to break down Braunschweigs resilient defence, resulting in the Bundesligas 1,000th scoreless draw. Babe Ruth Jersey Large . The home side created most of the chances but struggled to break down Braunschweigs resilient defence, resulting in the Bundesligas 1,000th scoreless draw. ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --?Broncos?linebacker Brandon Marshall says standing up for social justice by kneeling during the national anthem before Denvers season opener was worth it even though it cost him an endorsement deal.The Air Academy Federal Credit Union on Friday terminated its 5-month-old relationship with Marshall, President/CEO Glenn Strebe said in a Facebook post.AAFCU is a membership-based organization who has proudly served the military community for over 60 years. While we respect Brandons right of expression, his actions are not a representation of our organization and membership. We wish Brandon well on his future endeavors, Strebe wrote.Marshall said the move surprised him, but he doesnt regret his actions.Absolutely, theyre worth the consequences, Marshall said. I lost an endorsement. Its OK, though, I figured that some type of repercussion would happen.Marshall said he respects the military, which fought for his freedoms, including the rights of free speech and peaceful protest.People can question my patriotism, but I have the utmost respect for this country, for this land, for the military, Marshall said. Im not against any of those entities at all. As far as my patriotism, that shouldnt be a question because Im just upholding my rights. I can protest peacefully, I can stand or sit. I can say what I feel like saying. Thats what our military has fought for -- the ability for everybody to be themselves. So, Im just exercising that right and I will continue to do that.Marshall said some of his detractors suggest he should follow the example set by Pat Tillman, who cut short his NFL career to go to war.They write that Tillman is the ultimate patriot, the ultimate American, Marshall said. Thats what he felt was right. God put that on his heart. That was his calling, what he felt he should do. This is what I feel like. I feel like I should join this movement. But at the same time I should be active as well.He said hell donate time and money to worthy causes such as Wounded Warriors.Marshall, a college teammate aand fraternity brother of Colin Kaepernicks, took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before Denvers season opener against Carolina on Thursday night.ddddddddddddKaepernick refused to stand for the anthem during San Franciscos preseason games, explaining it was to protest racial oppression and police brutality in the United States.Marshall sounded a similar theme after Denvers 21-20 win.Im not against the military, Im not against America, he said. Im against social injustice.Marshall said Friday that hes gotten a lot of positive feedback but more negative reactions, including some racist remarks on Twitter and Instagram.I had a lot of positive text messages, but as far as social media, I had a lot of racist comments, people calling me the N-word and calling me all kinds of derogatory terms. Theres a lot of hate out there, but Im not here to spread hate or negativity.New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall got some of the tweets meant for the Broncos linebacker.Now he knows what it feels like, the Broncos Marshall said. Every time he does something or every time hes been in the media for something negative or even something positive, I get all the criticism. All the stuff he says on `Inside the NFL, I get it. Its crazy. So, now he knows what it feels like.Kaepernicks gesture opened a wide debate and focused the microscope on a pregame tradition that has, for decades, been routine.Marshall made no mention of his plans for Thursdays opener, saying he didnt want to take focus away from the teams preparation. But shortly after a large American flag was unfurled, the fifth-year linebacker out of Nevada went to the end of a long row of Broncos and took a knee.Marshall said hes not sure how long hell continue to kneel for the national anthem.Marshall said he asked a team spokesman to help him come up with a strategy for an endgame. He said hes also going to confer with Kaepernick. ' ' '