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Stars align for Eddie Jones to get immediate Bledisloe Cup bounce

There appeared to be genuine warmth between Eddie Jones and All Blacks coach Ian Foster when the two teams drew 25-25 at Twickenham in November, but the Bledisloe Cup may bring out Jones' mischievous side.

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There appeared to be genuine warmth between Eddie Jones and All Blacks coach Ian Foster when the two teams drew 25-25 at Twickenham in November, but the Bledisloe Cup may bring out Jones’ mischievous side.

ANALYSIS: Eddie Jones could do nothing and the Wallabies’ Bledisloe chances could still improve this year.

That’s the way it is with new coaches at times: if the timing of their arrival is favorable the side gets a bounce and they look like a genius.

And the timing is favorable for the Wallabies. First, there will be no Eden Park fixture this year due to the World Cup being played in New Zealand and Australia.

Second, Wallabies No 12 Samu Kerevi is likely to return after missing most of the 2022 test season with an ACL injury. The Wallabies are a completely different side with Kerevi.

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Eden Park will be under Fifa’s control when the All Blacks host the Wallabies later that year. The test is instead likely to be played in Dunedin on August 5 or thereabouts.

The World Cup will still be ongoing, but Forsyth Barr Stadium will host its final game of the tournament on Tuesday, August 1.

Technically, Forsyth Barr Stadium will still be off-limits to New Zealand Rugby due to Fifa rules that impose a “five-day exclusion period after the last match at each stadium”.

However, Fifa World Cup chief executive Dave Beeche struck a conciliatory tone when discussing the matter with Stuff in November.

“…some stadiums come back online earlier than others,” he said. “In Dunedin, we only play group stage matches. So, the stadium would be available four to five days after the closing match here, for example.

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Super Rugby preseason looks a little different depending on where you are in the country and this year the Highlanders have taken it rural.

“…All I can say at the moment is we’re working collaboratively with them to try and make sure that the All Blacks get to play at home in a [Rugby] World Cup year.”

The upshot is that Dunedin is likely to welcome the Wallabies, a week after the first Bledisloe test at the MCG in Melbourne.

As Ireland showed last year, Dunedin doesn’t hold the same fear factor for visiting teams as Eden Park. And in 2017, the All Blacks needed a late try to beat Australia at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The opening Bledisloe test at the MCG will also appeal to cricket tragic Jones. On the face of it, staging a Bledisloe test at the cavernous arena is ambitious, but the test at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne sold out last year – buoyed by the significant New Zealand expat population.

If Rugby Australia and NZ Rugby market the MCG test together – with Jones building the hype in the media – they could attract a big crowd in line with the 79,322 who turned up to watch the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in 2007.

All Blacks celebrate a try to Samisoni Taukei'aho during their 40-14 win against the Wallabies at Eden Park last year.  However, the football World Cup clash means the Wallabies will avoid a trip to the All Blacks' fortress this year.

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

All Blacks celebrate a try to Samisoni Taukei’aho during their 40-14 win against the Wallabies at Eden Park last year. However, the football World Cup clash means the Wallabies will avoid a trip to the All Blacks’ fortress this year.

Dave Rennie would have been well aware of the Bledisloe window of opportunity this year – he will be deeply frustrated he didn’t get the chance to finish his work at the Wallabies are guiding them through the Covid years and an injury crisis.

Kerevi’s return will arm the Wallabies with one of their truly world-class players and a side that pushed both France and Ireland all the way in November despite a crippling injury list has something going for it.

Jones will similarly understand that while the All Blacks will be warm favourites, Fifa have done the Wallabies a favor by taking the annual Eden Park hammering off the table.

The Wallabies job is a tough one: it’s been nine years since an Australian side won Super Rugby, yet their fans roll into each test campaign with a fair degree of expectation.

Jones will have to fight against the same structural headwinds that Rennie did. A revival at the Waratahs – they improved a lot under new coach Darren Coleman last year – could help but he won’t be under any illusions about the task ahead.

But in terms of his opening Bledisloe fixtures, his timing couldn’t be better.

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