Kieran Read says New Zealand have no concerns that they could be knocked off the top of the rankings this weekend ahead of a blockbuster showdown with Australia.

The All Blacks head into the Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth on Saturday knowing a defeat at Optus Stadium will open the door for Wales to become the top-ranked side in the world.

A win for the Six Nations champions over England on Sunday and a loss for Steve Hansen's side would take Warren Gatland's men to number one.

Captain Read stated that the world champions have not given any thought to the possibility they could be knocked off the top as they prepare for another battle with their fierce trans-Tasman rivals.

The back-row said: "It's not even part of our equation really, to be honest.

"We turn up here to win the game. We'll try and do that again tomorrow. We know it won’t be easy and it never is over here. We’ll put in our best performance."

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies but Read is expecting a big challenge.

"They’ve definitely had the fire in their bellies the last few years." he added.

"We know they will certainly have that again tomorrow night, so we can't just rest on what we've done over those years. It's important we reset and make sure we play as well as we can.

"These games you can't rely on your skills. It's about your mental fortitude and how you turn up and how you want to be physical. It's going to be important for us how we do that tomorrow."

New Zealand will be expected to continue their dominance of Australia and Argentina are eyeing back-to-back wins over South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks' hopes of pulling off a clean sweep in the tournament were ended when they were last month held to a 16-16 draw by South Africa, who are a win away from clinching the title.

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies heading into the Bledisloe Cup showdown in Perth on Saturday.

Argentina entertain the Springboks in Salta on the same day after losing 16-10 against Michael Cheika's men in round two.

Take a look at the pick of the Opta stats ahead of round three.

 

Australia v New Zealand 

- New Zealand have won their last six Rugby Championship games against Australia on the bounce, despite having trailed at half-time in two of the last three encounters.

- This will be the first rugby Test played at Optus Stadium. The Wallabies are undefeated in their last six games played in Western Australia.

- New Zealand have won 11 of their last 12 Tests away from home. The only loss in that span came against Ireland in Dublin last November.

- Cheika's side Australia are chasing back-to-back wins in the competition for the first time since 2016, when they defeated South Africa 23-17 and Argentina 36-20.

- World champions New Zealand have failed to score more than two tries in four of their last five Test matches, this after a run of 12 consecutive matches in which they scored four or more times.

- Australia have the best line-out success rate (89 per cent) of any team in this year's Rugby Championship 2019, nine percentage points higher than the All Blacks, who have the lowest rate.

 

Argentina v South Africa

- The Pumas will be on the hunt for consecutive wins against South Africa for the first time after a 32-19 win in their last encounter.

- Two of the previous three games between Argentina and South Africa at Estadio Ernesto Maltearena have been decided by a margin of just two points.

- South Africa's past seven Tests on the road have all been decided by a single-figure margin; the Springboks' results have been evenly split during that run, winning three, losing three and drawing once.

- Argentina have conceded 14 penalties in the tournament, the fewest of any team.

- South Africa have scored the most tries in this year's Rugby Championship, their tally of six being twice as many as any other side.

- Herschel Jantjies is the only player to have scored multiple tries (three) in the opening two rounds, the scrum-half has made just seven carries.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has brushed off Steve Hansen's "Mickey Mouse" jibe ahead of the Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth on Saturday.

New Zealand head coach Hansen labelled Cheika as the cartoon character during a fundraising event in Wellington in February.

Hansen was reacting to a statement brought up by former Australia player Mark Ella, who stated: "Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks to victory."

The wily Hansen quipped: "They've got Mickey Mouse coaching Aussie", but Cheika shrugged off the comment when asked about it two days before the trans-Tasman rivals do battle at Optus Stadium.

"Oh mate, is that even a question?" Cheika said when asked about Hansen's words.

"No drama for me."

He added: "There is certain things in footy that you... respect is an important thing in footy.

"It's the nature of the game, you rip into each other and then you socialise after."

Hansen said too much has been made of what he said six months ago.

"I never said he was Mickey Mouse. What I said was in a throwaway line, or something said in jest after an interviewer said to me Mark Ella thinks Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks because they have got so much talent," the 60-year-old stated on Thursday.

"And I just said, 'Well he can't because he's in Australia, coaching Australia'. So you can make a big thing out of it if you want, or you can take it for what it was. Something in jest.

"I have got plenty of respect for what Michael has done. End of story, really."

James O'Connor will make his first Wallabies start since 2013 as one of four changes to the run-on side to face New Zealand on Saturday.

O'Connor came off the bench in Australia's 16-10 win over Argentina last time out, but will start a Test for the first time since September 2013 when the Wallabies face the All Blacks in Perth.

Allan Alaalatoa is set for his first Test appearance of the year and the Brumbies star will be joined by Tolu Latu in the front row.

Meanwhile, Nic White will start alongside former Brumbies team-mate Christian Lealiifano in the halves.

The clash at Optus Stadium marks the opening game of the Bledisloe Cup, which the All Blacks have held since 2003.

Australia are third in the Rugby Championship on four points, behind South Africa (seven) and New Zealand (six).

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, James O'Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Nic White; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Michael Hooper, Isi Naisarani.
Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Luke Jones, Will Genia, Matt To'omua, Tom Banks.

Ardie Savea will surprisingly start at number six for a much-changed All Blacks against the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday.

Savea is one of six changes to New Zealand's starting side for the Rugby Championship clash, with his positional switch a shock.

The 25-year-old, an openside flanker or number eight, will make his first start at number six.

Dane Coles, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane, Aaron Smith and Anton Lienert-Brown are also starting in changes to the All Blacks side that drew 16-16 against South Africa.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said he had seen improvement from his team ahead of the Bledisloe Cup opener.

"Our preparation this week here in Perth has been very good. We can tell that it's 'Bledisloe One' week as there's a real sense of purpose in everything we do, and a real desire to do it well," he said in a release on Thursday.

"With the extra time together, we're starting to see an improved clarity of roles out on the training park.

"We'll need to take the confidence that comes with that clarity into the Test on Saturday and deliver a game which has high energy, high skill and great decision-making.

"The Bledisloe Cup has always been incredibly important to this team and teams before us. It's those teams, ourselves, our country and our many fans that inspire and drive us to want to go out and retake the trophy.

"We've never felt that it's about going out and retaining the cup because it's always been about earning the right to have it. This Saturday is no different. Both teams will be desperate and hungry for success."

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Scott Barrett, Samuel Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, George Bridge.

Rumesh Ratnayake has been named interim head coach of Sri Lanka, who appear to be ushering Chandika Hathurusingha towards the exit.

Ratnayake will lead the team for the upcoming series against New Zealand.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) stated on Wednesday that Hathurusingha, who has been head coach since December 2017, was consequently removed from his role.

However, it is claimed SLC has not yet agreed a deal to sack Hathurusingha, who would reportedly be due a significant severance package.

SLC president Shammi Silva said: "We have appointed Rumesh Ratnayake as interim coach.

"The decisions made from behind the scenes have been successful, but some of the decisions have not been made public. All these decisions are for the benefit of Sri Lankan cricket.

"When we came to power, there was not much time left before the World Cup. We actually had less than two months left.

"We wanted to work on changing the coach, but we had to use the former coach because of the World Cup."

Hathurusingha told ESPN: "As far as I'm concerned, my contract with SLC is still there. The letter [from SLC] doesn't say anything about termination of contract or anything like that."

Dinesh Chandimal has been included in Sri Lanka's preliminary 22-man squad ahead of the Test series against New Zealand.

Chandimal was dropped for the Tests against South Africa earlier this year but his impressive form in domestic action has led to a recall.

Akila Dananjaya and Dilruwan Perera are also back in contention, along with opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka and fast bowler Lahiru Kumara.

Akila was suspended from international cricket for an illegal action late last year, meaning he missed out on selection for the Cricket World Cup in England.

Angelo Mathews, who did not feature against South Africa due to injury, is back.

All-rounder Shehan Jayasuriya and fast bowler Asitha Fernando are the two uncapped players in a group that will be cut down to 15 next week.

Sri Lanka preliminary squad in full: Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Perera, Oshada Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando.

Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has confirmed he will retire from cricket after the Global T20 Canada.

McCullum has not played international cricket since February 2016 having scored over 6,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs, and he has been in demand on the T20 circuit ever since.

The 37-year-old announced his retirement from the Big Bash League in February and was due to take part in the inaugural Euro T20 Slam with the Glasgow Giants when that tournament begins later this month.

However, McCullum has confirmed he is bowing out after the ongoing tournament in Canada, where he is representing the Toronto Nationals.

"As much as I am proud of what I've achieved in my 20-year professional career - more than I ever could have dreamed of when I first entered the game - I have felt the drive to keep going harder to maintain in recent months," McCullum explained in a post on Twitter.

"My style of cricket has always been full noise, full throttle. From Culling Park to Lord's and everything in between, there has been some wonderful memories.

"Unfortunately, the sacrifices needed and commitment required to play that type of cricket have now become too great."

McCullum has the second most T20 runs of all time, behind only Chris Gayle.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus believes his team will benefit significantly from their extra time in New Zealand following last week's Rugby Championship draw against the All Blacks.

After rescuing a 16-16 tie in Wellington on Saturday to retain top spot in the table, the Springboks headed to Auckland for a week-long training camp.

The squad will now travel to Argentina in two groups, on Friday and Sunday, ahead of their final fixture against the Pumas next weekend.

"We chose to stay behind in Auckland mainly for two reasons," Erasmus told reporters.

"Firstly, to cut down on the amount of travelling time between New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. And secondly, we had some good team-building exercises, while we used the time together to fit in some extra training time with the squad.

"We have grown into a very tight unit, so looking back at the past week I think we ticked both those boxes."

South Africa lead New Zealand by a point heading into the final round of Rugby Championship matches next Saturday.

The Springboks' contest with Argentina in Salta will take place after Australia and the All Blacks have met in Perth, meaning Erasmus' side will know exactly what they need to do to lift the trophy.

Uncapped teenager Jordan Petaia has been included in Australia's squad for their final Rugby Championship match against New Zealand, while veterans David Pocock and Tatafu Polota-Nau have also been called into a 36-man party.

Reds wing Petaia was selected to make his Test debut against Italy last year, only to then be ruled out due to a hamstring problem.

The 19-year-old missed the majority of the 2019 Super Rugby season after suffering a serious foot injury, but he now has the chance to stake his claim for a place in the Wallabies' Rugby World Cup squad.

"It's great to see Jordan back," said head coach Michael Cheika. "He's had a few games of club rugby under his belt now so we'll look to integrate him this week in Perth and give him time to settle in."

Pocock has not played since April, with a calf problem bringing a premature end to his Super Rugby career.

It remains to be seen whether Cheika has any intention of utilising the former skipper against the All Blacks, or whether Pocock will simply train with the squad as he continues to build up his fitness.

Hooker Polota-Nau (knee) has also been called up as he recovers from injury, but there is no place for scrum-half Nick Phipps while Pete Samu, Jack Maddocks and Jack Dempsey have all been overlooked. The latter sustained a shoulder injury playing club rugby last weekend.

The Wallabies must beat New Zealand in Perth next weekend to have any chance of winning the Rugby Championship.

 

Australia squad to face New Zealand

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Folau Fainga'a, Michael Hooper, Luke Jones, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright.

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua, Nic White.

Sonny Bill Williams will miss New Zealand's Rugby Championship clash against Australia as the All Blacks named a 34-man squad for the two Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Williams is set to play two games with Counties Manukau, including their Mitre 10 Cup opener, while missing the meeting with the Wallabies in Perth on August 10.

However, the 33-year-old will re-join the All Blacks squad for their clash against Australia in Auckland a week later.

Nepo Laulala will also play for Counties but he will join up with New Zealand for the first game in Perth.

"Bledisloe Cup Tests are always massive Tests," All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said in a release on Wednesday.

"We know that the Wallabies will be confident after their win over Argentina and desperate to win this first match, so we're looking forward to getting to Perth and getting into our Test preparation.

"The Bledisloe Cup is the second most important trophy for us, after the Rugby World Cup, and we're really looking forward to the next two Tests coming up.

"Two weeks together will give us solid preparation towards growing our game understanding and getting our execution honed, so that's exciting.

"The last time the All Blacks played in Perth was way back in 1992 [against a Western Australia side] but this will be an historic first Test for us in the city, so we're also looking forward to catching up with our fans over there."

The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, while they are second to South Africa in the Rugby Championship ahead of the final matches of the tournament.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, George Bridge, Sam Cane, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Braydon Ennor, Vaea Fifita, Owen Franks, Jack Goodhue, Jackson Hemopo, Rieko Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Nepo Laulala, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Richie Mo'unga, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Angus Ta'avao, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brad Weber, Samuel Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams.

Jordie Barrett has renewed his contract with New Zealand Rugby, agreeing to stay with the Hurricanes despite brother Beauden's departure.

Barrett has committed to the All Blacks until 2022 and will remain with the Hurricanes, for whom he debuted in Super Rugby in 2017.

The 22-year-old has earned 10 caps for New Zealand, playing alongside siblings Beauden and Scott.

He will not count two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden as a club colleague in 2020, though, with the superstar first five-eighth set for a break after the Rugby World Cup before joining the Blues.

While Jordie will remain with the Hurricanes for the time being, his new deal contains the option to switch Super Rugby clubs after next year, according to Monday's All-Blacks statement.

Jordie Barrett said: "There is a really good mix of youth as well as experienced leaders in the Hurricanes squad and I feel like this is the best place to develop my game.

"Staying in New Zealand rugby is really important to me. I'm enjoying playing alongside my mates and I've got further aspirations and goals I want to reach while I'm playing in New Zealand."

Soon-to-depart All Blacks coach Steve Hansen added: "Congratulations to Jordie on his decision to re-sign with New Zealand Rugby.

"He's an outstanding, talented young player who has soaked up everything he can in the All Blacks environment and grabbed every opportunity with both hands.

"He has a big future in the game and we look forward to seeing his career grow over the next few years."

Mitchell Santner has been named by New Zealand as one of four spinners in a 15-man squad for their two-Test series against Sri Lanka in August.

Santner last played a Test for the Black Caps in December 2017, but the left-arm spinner is part of a squad that also includes Todd Astle, Ajaz Patel and Will Somerville.

New Zealand are readying themselves for spin-friendly conditions in Galle and Colombo in a series that also begins their ICC World Test Championship campaign.

Black Caps head coach Gary Stead said he would consider playing three spinners in the same XI against Sri Lanka.

"Playing three spinners is an option in Sri Lankan conditions and we believe this group provides the best variations and skill mix on offer," he said on Monday.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes there is a "good possibility" Brodie Retallick will be fit for the Rugby World Cup despite the lock dislocating his shoulder on Saturday.

Retallick came off in the second half of New Zealand's 16-16 draw against South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

It sparked fears Retallick could miss the World Cup, which begins in Japan in September, but Hansen was more optimistic on Sunday.

"He's only dislocated it, which means that there's a good possibility he could make the World Cup," a relieved Hansen told a news conference.

"No timeline yet to when he's going to return to play, but hopefully he'll be available to go to the World Cup."

The All Blacks are in Pool B for the World Cup, alongside the Springboks, Italy, Namibia and Canada.

Rassie Erasmus admitted South Africa were fortunate to escape with a draw from their Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand after a dramatic finish in Wellington.

The Springboks led 6-0 in the first half but faded after a promising start to trail 16-9 in the closing minutes of the contest.

However, having secured a sensational 36-34 victory over the All Blacks at the same venue in September last year, South Africa once again stunned the reigning world champions.

Herschel Jantjies managed to get his hands - and also his head - to Cheslin Kolbe's kick before seizing on the loose ball to score a last-gasp try, Handre Pollard restoring parity by adding the extras from the tee with the final act of the game.

"To play the number one team in the world and be lucky at the end there, it was almost like last year," director of rugby Erasmus said.

"Right at the end we could have lost it and we managed to draw the game. Handre could have missed that last kick, so we could have lost that game.

"To come away with a draw, I guess we're satisfied with that. The first 35 minutes we played very well while they totally dominated the second half. So fairly lucky, in a big way."

South Africa failed to make the most of their early dominance, allowing their opponents to take a 7-6 half-time lead thanks to converted try from Jack Goodhue that stemmed from a turnover near the halfway line.

While disappointed at the lack of points they managed to score during their period of control, Erasmus was pleased with his side's performance before the break. 

"I was frustrated in a sense that we dominated a lot of things except line-outs," he said. 

"All the other facets we dominated. Especially when they were almost under caution from the referee for repeated infringing and we missed the penalty when we could have gone nine points up, then they scored that turnover try and that swung the momentum.

"[We were] lucky to escape, but the first 40 minutes we played really good tactical rugby."

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