Rugby Championship: New Zealand chase record against Australia

Ben Smith New Zealand
Ben Smith has been chosen at full-back for New Zealand ahead of World Cup winner Israel Dagg

New Zealand are chasing a record 18th consecutive Test win when they take on Australia in the Rugby Championship in Sydney on Saturday.

Victory would surpass the mark of 17 set by South Africa in 1997-98 and the New Zealand side of 1965-69.

The All Blacks are favourites to win the competition for the third consecutive year despite the absence of fly-half Dan Carter with a broken leg.

South Africa and Argentina play in Pretoria on the same day.

Rugby Championship Fixtures
16 AugustAustraliavNew ZealandSydney
16 AugustSouth AfricavArgentinaPretoria
23 AugustNew ZealandvAustraliaAuckland
23 AugustArgentinavSouth AfricaSalta
6 SeptNew ZealandvArgentinaNapier
6 SeptAustraliavSouth AfricaPerth
13 SeptNew ZealandvSouth AfricaWellington
13 SeptAustraliavNew ZealandGold Coast
27 SeptSouth AfricavAustraliaCape Town
27 SeptArgentinavNew ZealandLa Plata
4 OctSouth AfricavNew ZealandJohannesburg
4 OctArgentinavAustraliaMendoza

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has picked Ben Smith at full-back over World Cup winner Israel Dagg for the game against Australia which is also the series opener of the Bledisloe Cup.external-link

"While we have been very happy with Israel Dagg's performances at 15, Ben has come in and raised the bar to another level," said Hansen.

"The challenge for Israel now is to get his performances - when he gets the opportunity - to an even higher level."

Kurtley Beale starts at fly-half for Australia ahead of Bernard Foley, who drops to the bench in a team which sees six changes from their last game against France in June.

"We've made what some people might consider bold selections," said Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

"Against the All Blacks, you've got to go out there and have a crack. We need to take a few risks."

Damian de Allende will make his test debut for South Africa and coach Heyneke Meyer has picked Handre Pollard, 20, at fly-half ahead of 56-test veteran Morne Steyn.

"Handre deserved another opportunity and it will be good to see how he combines with Jean de Villiers and Damian," said Meyer.

Argentina have a new coach in Daniel Hourcade and a new captain in Worcester Warriors hooker Agustin Creevy, with winger Juan Imhoff their only major absentee.

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