Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced the 13-member squad for the first two CG United One Day International (ODI) matches against New Zealand Women to be played from September 19 to 25 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

Experienced right-handed/wicketkeeper batter Natasha McLean makes a return to the West Indies Women’s team since she last played the five-match T20I series against England in Derby in 2020. However, Shemaine Campbelle, initially named in the 17-member squad has unfortunately been ruled out of the full eight-match white ball Series with an injury.

“The CG United ODI Series against New Zealand is another opportunity to continue to build the team. The panel once again has blended developing and senior players," said Lead Selector Anne Brown-John.

"Unfortunately, Shemaine Campbelle has been ruled out of the series through injury. While this is a blow to both the batting and wicket-keeping departments, it allows the upcoming wicket keepers to showcase their talent. It is hoped that particularly the batters will use this CG United ODI series to get some big scores which will boost confidence.”

West Indies Women’s squad for 1st and 2nd CG United ODIs: ​ Hayley Matthews (Captain),​ Aaliyah Alleyne,​ Shamilia Connell,​ Afy Fletcher,​ Shabika Gajnabi,​ Chinelle Henry, ​ Kyshona Knight, ​ Natasha McLean,​ Chedean Nation,​ Karishma Ramharack,​ Shakera Selman (Vice-Captain), ​ Stafanie Taylor and Rashada Williams.

Cherry-Ann Fraser, Sheneta Grimmond and Jannillea Glasgow are the reserves.

Dave Rennie has accused referee Mathieu Raynal of "showing a lack of feeling" over his match-turning decision to penalise Bernard Foley for time-wasting in Australia's 39-37 loss to New Zealand.

Australia had battled back valiantly from 31-13 down with an hour played in Thursday's thrilling Rugby Championship clash to lead 37-34 with time effectively up at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The hosts seemed certain to have snapped a three-game losing run against New Zealand when Lalakai Foketi secured a turnover penalty in front of his own posts, only for Raynal to reverse the call due to perceived time-wasting.

New Zealand were handed a five-metre attacking scrum and eventually spun the ball wide, where Jordie Barrett had space to slide over and earn his side back-to-back Test wins for the first time this year.

Referee Raynal explained his decision was down to Foley failing to play on when the clock restarted, but Australia head coach Rennie was furious with the call.

"I was just talking to Bernard Foley and what we knew was the time was out and he told the boys to play but the clock was stopped," Rennie told Stan Sport. 

"So there was no real urgency to do that and I don't know... it just shows a little bit of a lack of feel for such an important moment in the game.

"The referee had told him to play and at no stage was he told or did he believe he was going to call a scrum from that.

"Most situations the clock is off and the clock stays off, so it sounds like the clock went off and then he started it again. As we know, a team scores a try late and you take your time getting back to halfway and they stop the clock and wait until you kick off.

"The disappointing thing from our point of view is it was a fantastic game of footy and we should be celebrating the game as opposed to talking about a ref decision in the last minute."

 

Wallabies great Matt Giteau used social media to describe Raynal's late decision as the worst he has seen. Asked if he agreed with that sentiment, Rennie opted against giving a comment.

The Wallabies have now lost 17 of their past 21 Tests against Australia, including each of the past four, and are no longer in contention to win this year's Rugby Championship.

"I'm absolutely gutted," Australia captain James Slipper said. "I don't know what else to say. We really wanted to put in a performance. That is probably the most gutting way to finish a game."

Australia, who have lost four of their past five Tests on home soil, travel to Auckland in the final round of fixtures next weekend. 

New Zealand squandered an 18-point lead before recovering to snatch a dramatic 39-37 victory over Australia as they moved a step closer to winning the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks led 31-13 in a Bledisloe Cup classic at a packed Marvel Stadium with an hour played, yet they trailed 37-34 with normal time up in Melbourne.

However, Beauden Barrett capped a truly remarkable contest by touching down in the corner with nearly 81 minutes on the clock to break Australian hearts, after a controversial decision that saw the hosts penalised for time-wasting and the visitors handed a scrum in front of the posts.

New Zealand have now won 17 of their past 21 Tests against Australia, including four in a row, and are five points ahead of Argentina and South Africa, who meet on Saturday.

The penultimate round of Rugby Championship fixtures are upon us and it is all to play for with every side having won two and lost two of their opening four games.

An inconsistent New Zealand side are a point better off than Argentina, South Africa and next opponents Australia by virtue of picking up two bonus points.

Despite a thumping win over Argentina last time out, the pressure still remains on head coach Ian Foster heading into Thursday's contest with great rivals Australia in Melbourne.

The hosts are looking to bounce back from a 16-point loss against South Africa, who make the trip to Buenos Aires in the second of this week's fixtures on Saturday.

Here, Stats Perform previews both clashes in round five of the championship using Opta data.


AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

FORM

New Zealand may lead the way at the top, but their form this year has been very poor by their usual high standards. The All Blacks have lost four of their seven Tests in 2022 – only in 1998 (five) and 1949 (six) have they ever lost more in a calendar year.

Back-to-back victories would provide a major confidence boost for Foster's charges, and they have a good record in this fixture. Of the past 20 Tests meetings between the sides, New Zealand have won 16 and lost only three, a run that includes three wins in a row.

Australia have not lost back-to-back Tests with New Zealand since August 2017, however, and their return of three wins from their past six matches against the All Blacks on home turf is more than they managed in the previous 13 such encounters.

The Wallabies have won the opening game of the Bledisloe Cup – which New Zealand have dominated for the past two decades – only twice in the past 13 years. However, one of those victories came when they last hosted the opening game three years ago.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia will have to watch their discipline in what is a highly charged fixture. Skipper James Slipper has conceded 11 penalties so far in this year's Rugby Championship, which is four more than any other player in the competition.

All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane continued his good form last time out by scoring a try and setting up another in the 50-point win against Argentina. That could spell bad news for Australia, against whom he has been directly involved in 13 tries across 12 Test appearances.


ARGENTINA V SOUTH AFRICA

FORM

Argentina fell short of registering three wins in a row in this competition for the first time ever when falling heavily to New Zealand two weeks ago. 

Los Pumas will take great confidence from beating Australia last time out at home, though, and are now seeking successive wins on their own patch for the first time since 2012.

South Africa may not be in full flow, but they have won 28 of their 32 Tests against Argentina, including the past four in a row. In fact, only against Italy (93 per cent) do they have a better win percentage than they do against Los Pumas (88 per cent) among teams they have faced at least 10 times.

The Springboks did manage to build a little momentum with their win over Australia two weeks ago, yet that was one of only three victories in their past eight games in the championship after winning six of the previous eight.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Matias Moroni has put in some strong displays to keep Argentina in the hunt for the title, his five dominant tackles more than any other player in the competition. The centre has also won five turnovers, a tally only Malcolm Marx (six) – who he will face off against this weekend – can better.

South Africa are the lowest points scorers after four rounds of matches. Willie le Roux could hold the key to finding a way through Argentina this weekend as he leads the way for try assists this tournament with three, while also providing six assists in his past six meetings with Argentina.

Bernard Foley is relishing "one more crack" at international rugby after the experienced fly-half was picked by Australia to face New Zealand in Thursday's Bledisloe Cup clash.

After three years out of the picture, since moving to play in Japan after the Rugby World Cup, Foley has been handed the chance to be the Wallabies' playmaker once more.

The 71-cap Foley's inclusion is one of eight changes made to the starting line-up by coach Dave Rennie for the tussle with the All Blacks in Melbourne.

Waratahs captain Jake Gordon comes in at scrum-half to partner 33-year-old Foley, with the home side looking to atone for a 24-8 loss to South Africa last time out, in Sydney.

Australia have two wins from four games so far in the Rugby Championship and complete their campaign with home and away battles against New Zealand, with the Bledisloe Cup on the line.

Wing Marika Koroibete will get his 50th cap, yet all eyes will be on Foley in the first instance.

"It's great to have Bernard's experience, and he brings plenty of voice and passion for the gold jersey," Rennie said.

Foley replaces Noah Lolesio who suffered concussion in the loss to the Springboks.

"It means so much," Foley said. "Not being a part of it for a couple of years, being a spectator overseas, you get to reflect on how much the jersey means to you and how you really appreciate the time and opportunity.

"I'm really excited. One thing when you go away is you miss the build-up, the anticipation of these big games, so I've enjoyed this week."

For his international return to come against New Zealand makes it all the more special.

"I think you definitely look at the games and you have some great battles," Foley said. "You always wish you can get one more crack, so for me to be back here is just making the most of it."

New Zealand coach Ian Foster has switched around his scrum, with Hoskins Sotutu coming in at number eight and Brodie Retallick handed a chance in the second row, as Scott Barrett moves to blindside blanker

Foster said of the high-stakes tussles with Australia: "We are incredibly driven to keep hold of this trophy which means so much to both countries.

"And when you factor in how tight this year's Rugby Championship is, all signs point towards another great Test match here in Melbourne."

Australia::Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; James Slipper (captain), David Porecki, Allan Alaalatoa, Jed Holloway, Matt Philip, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini.

Replacements Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Pone Fa'amausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ethan de Groot, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tyrel Lomax, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane (captain), Hoskins Sotutu.

Replacements: Dane Coles, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) announced on Monday a 17-member provisional squad to take on New Zealand Women in three CG United One Day Internationals (ODIs) from September 16-22 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.

Newly appointed captain Hayley Matthews leads the squad which sees the return of the experienced Natasha McLean.

The squad was selected with the consideration of performances in the recently concluded Skyexch 6ixty and the Massy Women’s Caribbean Premier League (WCPL) tournaments.

A match-day squad of 13 players will be selected ahead of each CG United ODI.

The CG United ODI Series is scheduled for September 16, 18 and 22 with matches starting at 9.30 am local time, 8.30 am Jamaica time. The T20 Internationals (T20Is) are scheduled for September 25 to October 6. All of the T20Is will start at 1.30 pm local time, 12:30 pm Jamaica time, other than the 4th T20I on Tuesday, October 4 which will start at 10.00 am local time, 9.00 am Jamaica time.

For the CG United ODI Series, West Indies will be looking to build on the progress after reaching the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year.

The team will then look to the five T20I matches as part of their preparations for the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa in January.

Mandy Mangru and Kaysia Schultz have also joined the players in Antigua for a 10-day training camp led by Head Coach Courtney Walsh.

“The New Zealand series is very important on the women’s cricket landscape not only because it starts a new cycle, but also because it is part of the preparation leading towards the T20 World Cup in South Africa,” said CWI’s Lead Selector for women’s cricket, Ann Browne-John.

“With a few senior players unavailable at this time, for different reasons, like the experienced Anisa Mohammed, Kycia Knight and recently retired Deandra Dottin, the selectors were still able to get a blend of senior and developing players including Under-19 player Jannillea Glasgow and returning players Natasha McLean and Sheneta Grimmond.

“Ultimately, we believe that captain Hayley Matthews, in her first series, will have a promising squad of players to start building with.”

All eight matches will be streamed live on the Windies Cricket YouTube channel. Live ball-by-ball scoring will also be available on the ​ www.windiescricket.com Match Centre.

Full squad: Hayley Matthews (captain), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Afy Fletcher, Cherry Ann Fraser, Shabika Gajnabi, Jannillea Glasgow, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman, Stafanie Taylor and Rashada Williams.

 

Match schedule

All matches at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium

 

 CG United ODI Series

Friday 16 September: 1st CG United ODI, 9:30 am Eastern Caribbean/8:30 am Jamaica Time

Sunday 18 September: 2nd CG United ODI, 9:30 am Eastern Caribbean/8:30 am Jamaica Time

Thursday 22 September: 3rd CG United ODI, 9:30 am Eastern Caribbean/8:30 am Jamaica Time

 

 

T20I Series

Sunday 25 September: 1st T20I, 1:30pm Eastern Caribbean/12:30pm Jamaica time

Wednesday 28 September: 2nd T20I, 1:30pm Eastern Caribbean/12:30pm Jamaica time

Saturday 1 October: 3rd T20I, 1:30pm Eastern Caribbean/12:30pm Jamaica time

Tuesday 4 October: 4th T20I, 10:00am Eastern Caribbean/9:00am Jamaica Time

Thursday 6 October: 5th T20I, 1:30pm Eastern Caribbean/12:30pm Jamaica time

 ​

 

Aaron Finch has enjoyed a "fun ride" in his ODI career, after he announced his decision to step away from the 50-over format.

The 35-year-old played his 145th and final ODI for Australia on Sunday, and though he only managed five runs against New Zealand, his team nevertheless sealed a series whitewash in Cairns.

Finch's final 54 matches in the format came as captain, with the opener having revealed his decision to retire from ODIs prior to the match. He will, however, stay on as T20 captain ahead of Australia's defence of their world title next month.

His record in recent ODIs has been poor, with Finch becoming the first Australian to record five ducks in a calendar year in the format. In his final eight such matches, he managed just 31 runs.

Yet Finch was able to look back with pride at his long career.

"Pretty good, means I don't have to field 50 overs anymore," Finch quipped when asked how he was feeling.

"It's been a fun ride. I've loved every bit of it. Sitting around having a beer with your mates after winning a match or series is the thing I'll miss the most, but we'll enjoy tonight."

Finch added: "I want to thank everyone. The staff we've had, the captains I've had right from club cricket. All the players, it's such a special time.

"My wife and family, the support they've given me. My career has had plenty of ups and downs but to always have the support of the changing room is something I've felt my whole career."

While Finch was unable to go out with a flourish, Steve Smith – a potential replacement as ODI skipper – provided the bedrock for Australia to claim a 10th straight home ODI win over New Zealand.

Smith scored 105 from 131 deliveries, with support coming from Marnus Labuschagne (52) and Alex Carey (42), with the Black Caps falling short in the chase to lose by 25 runs.

Steve Smith score a brilliant century as Australia sent ODI captain Aaron Finch off in style with a 25-run win over New Zealand in the third and final match of their series.

Finch had announced prior to the game this would be his final ODI and, though he made just five in Cairns, team-mate Smith excelled, his 105 from 131 balls helping the hosts to 267-5 – Marnus Labuschagne (52) adding a valuable half-century as Australia sealed a series whitewash.

Several in New Zealand's line-up made starts but failed to build big totals, Glenn Phillips' middle-order partnerships with Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner not proving enough to make the chase.

Finch was given a guard of honour and a handshake with opposite number Kane Williamson after a minute's silence was held as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen.

Some textbook swing bowling from Tim Southee meant there was no dream send-off for Finch, but Smith, a contender to be the new ODI captain, led the way.

His century off 126 was the slowest of his career, though his second fifty runs came off only 46.

He and Labuschagne focused mostly on surviving, but Alex Carey (42) added 69 with Smith in 10 overs to boost the run rate, before the latter was bowled by Santner.

New Zealand made 49 for the opening wicket before Devon Conway was caught by Smith at backward point and the tourists struggled to score runs freely, tumbling to 112-5.

Phillips' work with Neesham and Santner made sure Australia had to push hard for their win but ultimately New Zealand fell short, Mitchell Starc finishing 3-60 to wrap up the series.

Spectacular Smith

It was not just Smith's work with the bat that proved so influential. He also made important catches from Conway, Mitchell and Neesham to knock New Zealand off their stride.

While Santner was able to keep the pace going, his dismissal and Phillips' exit brought an end to any hopes of a turnaround.

Finch farewell

After 145 ODI caps, Finch's illustrious spell in the format will come to an end but it was unfortunate he could not go out with a bang. The home supporters gave him the send-off he deserves, however, and he issued his backing to Smith to succeed him prior to Sunday's final match.

Finch departs having guided Australia to a 10th straight ODI win on home turf against New Zealand, a run that dates back to 2009. Indeed, they have now won their last five matches against their neighbours in the format (home or away), which matches a winning streak they enjoyed against the Black Caps between November 2006 and February 2007.

A big score for struggling New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is only just around the corner, insists head coach Gary Stead.

New Zealand have already lost their three-match ODI series in Australia going into Sunday's final encounter, with the hosts having won the first two contests.

Australia won an entertaining opener by two wickets before New Zealand were skittled for just 82 in a miserable second ODI for the Black Caps.

Williamson has been out of form for a while – his last international century was his incredible 238 in a Test match against Pakistan in January 2021, while he last hit three figures in white-ball cricket back in June 2019 in an ODI against West Indies.

Stead believes Williamson is being judged slightly unfairly, as his form was unsustainably good before he suffered an elbow injury, and is convinced the New Zealand skipper will soon get back to something close to his best.

"It's always difficult when you have had such a prolific run-scorer as what Kane has been," Stead said.

"I think what everyone remembers is immediately before his elbow injury, when he was in the richest vein of form that perhaps some players have ever been in.

"Kane is one of the hardest workers I have seen on his game and he continues to be.

"A big score is around the corner. Kane is a very, very consistent trainer. Regardless of if he is scoring runs or not, he appears to me to train the same way."

Australia have won their last four ODIs against New Zealand, their longest winning run since a five-game streak that concluded in 2007.

And a victory in the third ODI would give Australia a 10th straight home win against the Black Caps, with their current nine-match run at home already their best ever. 

New Zealand have not won an ODI in Australia since 2009, but amid the team's woe, Stead also backed Williamson's credentials as captain.

Williamson was criticised for taking Trent Boult out of the attack at a key stage in the first ODI and has faced questions over his future in the role, talk not helped by deputy Tom Latham's huge success in ODIs where the regular skipper has been missing.

Stead added: "You are always reflecting on how we go about it and what we might do differently. We all make mistakes from time to time.

"Who knows what's right anyway? That's the tough thing about the game of cricket. One decision you make will work one day and the next day it won't.

"You try to put odds in your favour at any given moment. If you go through and dissect every ball, you'll find something to talk about.

"That's the decision of the leaders who are out in the middle and we know as a matter of fact that the bowler can bowl only 10 overs.

"So it is up to Kane and the other guys who are out there to work out when is the right time and what looks right then."

Australia skipper Aaron Finch will be playing his last ODI on Sunday after announcing his retirement from the 50-over format.

Australia's one-day captain Aaron Finch announced on Friday that the next ODI against New Zealand will be his last before retiring from the 50-over format.

Finch, 35, will finish with 145 ODI matches and 54 as captain, but will continue to lead the T20 side. 

While his record is strong, boasting 5401 runs at an average of 39.42, he has struggled mightily lately as he became the first Australian to record five ODI ducks in a calendar year. In his past seven ODIs, he has 26 runs and three ducks.

Speaking to the media at his retirement press conference, Finch said now was the time to step away to allow a new leader to get acclimated ahead of the World Cup.

"It has been a fantastic ride with some incredible memories," he said. 

"I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of some brilliant one-day sides. Equally, I have been blessed by all those I have played with and the many people behind the scenes.

"It is time now to give a new leader the best possible opportunity to prepare for and win the next World Cup. I thank all of those who have helped and supported my journey to this point."

Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley added: "On behalf of Australian Cricket, I would like to congratulate Aaron on his vast contribution as captain of the Australian Men’s ODI team and as a wonderful exponent of the 50-over format.

"Aaron is an enormously gifted and determined player whose outstanding deeds with the bat have been matched by his strong and inspiring leadership. His decision to step aside from the ODI captaincy now is typical of his selfless approach to the game.

"I'm delighted Aaron will lead the Australian team into the forthcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup where his leadership, experience and tactical nous will be integral to the defence of our T20 World Cup title on home soil."

Adam Zampa took five wickets as Australia skittled New Zealand for 82 to win the second ODI in Cairns by 113 runs, clinching a series victory with a match to spare.

The hosts made light work of the team at the top of the ICC rankings to get their hands on the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.

After rallying in the closing overs to reach 195-9 in their innings, Australia rattled through a New Zealand batting line-up experiencing a collective off-day.

This was the second contest of a three-match series being staged in Cairns, and Australia were in early disarray at 26-4 after Matt Henry and Trent Boult each struck twice with the ball. Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis both departed for ducks, while David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne made five runs each.

Alex Carey followed for 12 as Mitchell Santner got in on the wickets, before Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell put on the first substantial partnership, a cautious alliance of 49 for the sixth wicket.

Maxwell (25), Sean Abbott (7) and Smith, whose 61 was the key contribution, fell in quick succession, and when Boult had Zampa caught on the drive by James Neesham, Australia were tottering on 148-9, with six overs remaining.

Mitchell Starc (38no) and Josh Hazlewood (23no) rescued that dicey situation by adding an unbroken 47 for the final wicket, turning the momentum in Australia's favour, and it had swung decisively when New Zealand made their own dismal start with the bat.

The visitors' top order offered feeble resistance, crumbling to 38-5, with captain Kane Williamson top-scoring among those early victims with 17 before being dismissed lbw by a full toss from spinner Zampa.

It was 46-6 when Neesham clipped Stoinis to Finch at midwicket, and 54-7 when Starc had Michael Bracewell caught by a diving Maxwell at gully. Zampa wiped out the tail to complete figures of 5-35.

Boult efforts go unrewarded again

Boult's bowling in his 98th ODI appearance had Australia tied up in knots again, after he took 4-40 in a losing cause in the first match. This time, figures of 4-38 mean he has taken hauls of four or more wickets in consecutive ODIs for the first time in his career.

Again, it was a performance that went unrewarded, with New Zealand left to seek a consolation win in Sunday's final match of the series.Z

Beating the benchmark

Starc took 2-12, while Abbott remarkably finished with 2-1 from five overs, but it was Zampa who brought home the win, prising out Tim Southee, Henry and Boult to complete his five-for. The 30-year-old Zampa posted ODI career-best figures, having previously managed four four-wicket hauls.

Zampa told Fox: "It was a nice night. I didn't bowl my best to be honest. The full toss to Kane, the ball didn't come out as well as I'd have liked, but sometimes it's like that."

Playing down his own performance, he said he "reaped the rewards" after the likes of Starc and Abbott made early inroads, but considered it a victory worthy of celebration.

"It feels good to win any series, but particularly against the number one team in the world," Zampa said. "They're the benchmark at the moment, so it feels good."

Excitement levels for the 2023 Rugby World Cup have ramped up another notch with Thursday marking exactly one year to go until the tournament gets up and running.

For some teams, the next 12 months will present a chance to continue building momentum ahead of the showpiece event. For others, a year of uncertainty awaits.

While it is still too early to pick out a strong favourite to win the event, a handful of teams – major issues or not – stand out among the top candidates to lift the famous trophy.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how the leading lights are shaping up ahead of the quadrennial world championship in France.
 

SOUTH AFRICA

Where better to start than with the reigning world champions? The Springboks triumphed somewhat against the odds in Japan three years ago, becoming the first team to win the title after losing a match in the pool stage.

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa went 20 months between beating England in the 2019 final and cruising to a 40-9 victory over Georgia in July last year, though series victories over the British and Irish Lions, England and Wales have helped get any rustiness out of the system over the past 12 months or so.

The ongoing Rugby Championship is a better litmus test of what to expect in a year's time, and the Boks find themselves third with four matches played, albeit with only a point separating the four sides. Consistency is proving to be a major issue, having strung together successive wins only twice in their past 14 outings, something that must be put right.

 

NEW ZEALAND

Perennial World Cup favourites New Zealand won back-to-back tournaments prior to South Africa's triumph three years ago. If they are to have any chance of wrestling back the Webb Ellis Cup, then a number of issues must be resolved.

The All Blacks opted to put faith in under-fire boss Ian Foster amid a run of desperately disappointing results, which included three successive home Test losses for the first time in their history, with Ireland winning their maiden Test series in the country.

Defeat against Argentina two weeks ago may well have forced New Zealand chiefs to reconsider their options before it is too late, but Foster's side responded with an emphatic 53-3 victory against the same opponents in Hamilton to move top of the Rugby Championship standings and send out a message to their critics.

Back-to-back fixtures with Australia, followed by Tests with Wales, Scotland and England, will provide a better indication of exactly where this New Zealand side are ahead of the World Cup after a turbulent period.


IRELAND

Ideally for Ireland, the World Cup would start this week rather than in a year's time on the back of what has been a stellar period. Andy Farrell's side closed out the momentous series win in New Zealand in July and have won 13 of their past 16 matches.

Despite that consistent run of results, Ireland have gone four years between Six Nations titles, with their solitary loss to France in this year's competition prolonging their wait for silverware.

Ranked at number one in the world a year out from France 2023, Ireland need to fine tune one or two areas and ensure they keep their star players – Johnny Sexton among them – fit and firing.

 

FRANCE

Having lived up to the hype by ending a 12-year wait for Six Nations success, followed up by their recent series win over Japan, France are now under pressure to win the World Cup for the first time in their history on home soil next year.

Les Bleus have won 10 in a row since their most recent defeat, coming at the hands of Australia in July 2021, and will test themselves against Australia and South Africa prior to their Six Nations title defence getting under way in February.

A fit Antoine Dupont remains crucial to any chance France have of ending their World Cup hoodoo following a record three defeats in finals. Beyond wrapping certain players in cotton wool, Fabien Galthie must ensure the hunger remains and that his men can cope with the pressure that comes with being the host nation.


ENGLAND

If results in both hemispheres over the past few months have taught us anything, it is that any of the major rugby nations can beat any other on their day. Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Argentina have each produced some big victories, for example, while Australia as ever will fancy themselves on the biggest stage of them all.

The same is very much true of England, who earned an impressive series win Down Under to silence Eddie Jones' growing list of critics following yet another underwhelming Six Nations campaign.

And therein lies the problem for England. Jones has constantly said hitting form in time for the World Cup is all that matters, and the Red Rose simply cannot afford for one of their off days to come in a knockout match. 

As runners-up last time around, and as one of only four teams to have ever lifted the trophy, this will be another win-or-bust tournament for England in what will be Jones' final bow before being replaced.

Alex Carey and Cameron Green pulled off a superb stand of 158 to help Australia get the better of New Zealand, earning a two-wicket win in the first ODI in Cairns.

The pair came together at the crease with the hosts on 44-5 inside a dozen overs following a blistering start from left-arm quick Trent Boult.

But wicketkeeper Carey (85) and all-rounder Green (89 not out) turned the tables on the Black Caps, their sixth-wicket alliance proving pivotal as Australia went in pursuit of New Zealand's 232-9 and found an extra gear.

It marked a fine recovery for Aaron Finch's side against the top-ranked 50-over side in world cricket.

Having won the toss and put the tourists in to bat at Cazalys Stadium, Australia looked like they could rue the decision after Devon Conway (46) and Kane Williamson (45) helped New Zealand to 91-1.

The visitors did not quite take off after that partnership broke up, but they still looked in the ascendancy, particularly when Boult claimed the scalps of Finch (5), Steve Smith (1) and Marnus Labuschagne (0).

Yet Carey and Green, both omitted from Australia's T20 World Cup squad, rallied with a sublime effort to spin the match on its head. Although Carey's dismissal sparked a nervy finale, they still had enough to get over the line.

Maxwell keeps Black Caps at bay

Crucial to Australia's success was Glenn Maxwell, who went for more runs than any other bowler in the side but took four crucial wickets.

It makes him just the third spinner to achieve the feat against New Zealand in ODI cricket for the Baggy Greens, after Shane Warne and Brad Hogg.

Williamson's half-century drought continues

It was so near and yet so far for New Zealand skipper Williamson, who just fell short of the 50 mark again for his country.

He has not scored an international half-century in 2022, a concern perhaps for the captain with the T20 World Cup looming.

Kane Williamson has no immediate desire to leave his role as New Zealand captain or the Black Caps' set-up, though he sees the appeal of big-money offers from elsewhere.

New Zealand face Australia in a three-match ODI series starting on Tuesday in Cairns, Queensland, looking to end a 13-year search for a 50-over win in the country.

They will do so without a key player in the form of Colin de Grandhomme, who last week announced his international retirement.

De Grandhomme's decision came after he had taken up an offer to play for the  Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League, which clashed with his New Zealand duties.

Trent Boult, the world's best ODI bowler who has taken 36 per cent of the Black Caps' wickets when he has played in the format in 2022, is another player who has been released from his New Zealand Cricket central contract.

Paceman Boult is included in the 15-man squad to face Aaron Finch's side, but this year's T20 World Cup might well prove the 33-year-old's swansong on the international stage.

 

Williamson himself is no stranger to playing in lucrative competitions such as the Indian Premier League, having featured for Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2015.

However, the 32-year-old has no plans to call time on his New Zealand career as he aims to end a seven-match losing streak against Australia in the 50-over game.

"It's a tricky one because it is changing - so much seems to have happened so quickly," Williamson told reporters. "It does seem to be a movement in the landscape of the game.

"Every case is unique and every case has got their individual needs at different stages of their lives.

"There are a lot of different franchise events happening and seeing players make decisions on their playing careers, it suggests that there is a balance to strike and some things to work through.

"At the moment I'm very much here and looking to do my very best for the team. I love being involved in this environment."

The series is the first between the two rivals – who faced off in last year's T20 World Cup final – since the start of 2020, with only one match played on that occasion before New Zealand's team travelled home with borders closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is not set to be another bilateral ODI series between the nations for the next four years.

While they have not lost an ODI on home soil to New Zealand since 2009, Australia will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since January 2019, following their shock three-wicket reverse at the hands of Zimbabwe last week, though they did at least win that series 2-1.

 

Finch's cause for concern

Australia's World Cup-winning captain is not in fine fettle. He scored just 21 runs across three innings against Zimbabwe and is going up against a fearsome bowling attack this time out.

Finch's record against New Zealand is nothing to shout about, either, with his 17.2 average from 10 ODIs the worst against any nation in the format. With the World Cup just around the corner, he will be desperate to hit his stride.

"Across his career, it's ebbed and flowed. His movement patterns sometimes early in his innings are compromised, whether that's through perceived pressure that he puts on himself or what the bowler does," head coach Andrew McDonald said of Finch's form. "We are working through it. He's working hard on his game."

Southee chasing a milestone

New Zealand have won nine of their 10 ODIs in 2022 (L1) – only Scotland (W12) and India (W11) have won more games this year.

In Boult and Southee, they have a brilliant bowling duo. The latter is three wickets away from becoming the fifth Black Cap to take 200 in the format, while if he achieves that in Tuesday's opener (his 147th ODI) he will be the second-quickest player to the landmark (after Kyle Mills – 135 matches).

Ian Foster declared New Zealand were back in contention for the Rugby Championship title after his team atoned for last week's shock defeat to Argentina by crushing the Pumas 53-3 in Hamilton.

Having lost three consecutive home Tests for the first time in their history, the All Blacks were under huge pressure to secure a second win of the campaign on Saturday, and they responded in emphatic fashion.

New Zealand restricted their opponents to no tries for the first time this year before blitzing the Pumas in the second half, with Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick and Beauden Barrett going over after the break to clinch a morale-boosting win.

Foster's future has been the subject of considerable speculation recently, but the All Blacks coach is simply concerned with the result's impact on the championship standings.

Asked whether he felt a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, Foster said: "No. It's the life of a coach.

"All we've done is put ourselves back into contention. From a championship [perspective] we've still got plenty to do, so we'll roll our sleeves up and get stuck into our work.

"It's significant in the Rugby Championship, first and foremost. This championship is important for us, and we put ourselves in a bit of a hole last week.

"We had to respond and to walk away with a bonus point and a big points differential in a tight competition at least keeps us in the race.

"I'm just proud of the way we've worked hard to get our game where we want it to be. It hasn't happened at the speed we'd like it to, but we saw signs of that tonight. 

"There is no doubt the team has felt a whole lot of different pressure. I was just proud of the way the guys have hung in there and not got tight under the pressure and played with a bit of ambition."

The All Blacks' dominant success represents just their third Test win of 2022, and prevented Argentina from sealing their first back-to-back victories over their hosts.

Foster was delighted with how his team responded to the criticism coming their way, adding: "It was a big week for us. We had to respond, and I thought we did it in a really ruthless manner.

"There were a lot of questions about putting the same group out again, but I really believe in the direction we're going and am delighted with the response against a pretty enthusiastic Argentina team."

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