Australia vs New Zealand LIVE: Rugby Championship latest build-up and updates from Melbourne

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New Zealand can move a step closer to retaining the Rugby Championship with a victory over Australia in Melbourne.

The All Blacks’ 50-point victory over Argentina and South Africa’s win against Australia means all four teams head into the penultimate round separated by just one point in what is proving to be the closest Rugby Championship for years.

The fixture will also be the opening match of the Bledisloe Cup, which Australia have not held in two decades, as the Wallabies have been consistently dominated by their fierce rivals.

Ian Foster’s New Zealand have been vulnerable this season, and are yet to win back-to-back matches this year as the likes of France, Ireland and Argentina have all taken turns beating them, but a bonus-point victory would see them put one hand on the trophy ahead of next week’s return match in Auckland.

Follow all the action from the contest with our live blog below:

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Hoskins Sotutu aiming to replace talisman Ardie Savea for the All Blacks

No 8 Hoskins Sotutu will have big shoes to fill as replacement for dynamo Ardie Savea as defending champions New Zealand bid for back-to-back Rugby Championship wins with victory over Australia in Melbourne.

Long shut out of the back row, the 24-year-old Auckland Blue has been recalled for his first test since last November as one of three positional changes to the starting 15 that dismantled Argentina 53-3.

Savea, excused from the test while awaiting the birth of his third child, has been a rock through a difficult season for the All Blacks, and Sotutu knows he has a hard act to follow.

“His preparation is quite second-to-none,” 10-test Sotutu told reporters of Savea. “For him being able to perform really consistently every week is something I find pretty amazing.

“Obviously with Ardie not being it’s pretty big shoes to fill but I’ve just got to do what I do … Don’t try to over-complicate it and be me.”

New Zealand make three positional changes for Australia clash

Rugby Championship 2022: All Blacks vs Australia team news

All Blacks dominance over Australia drains Bledisloe Cup of its prestige

There was a time when Australia and New Zealand’s battle for the Bledisloe Cup was almost a de facto world championship but nearly two decades of All Blacks dominance has drained the trophy of much of its prestige.

The series’ relevance will again be tested this week as Ian Foster’s team look to seal the trophy for a 20th successive year by beating the Wallabies in Melbourne.

The All Blacks’ stranglehold has long pained Australian fans who pine for the days when the world-beating Wallabies won five Bledisloes in succession from 1998-2002.

The Cup has since come to symbolise Australia’s decline as a rugby power as much as New Zealand’s strength. The narrative has changed slightly this year but not for any Australian improvement.

Dave Rennie’s Wallabies slumped to a record low of eighth in world rankings after an insipid 24-8 home defeat to South Africa in the last round of the Rugby Championship. The difference this year is that the All Blacks are also struggling, losing six of their last nine tests. France, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina have all taken turns to beat the three-times world champions in the past year.

All Blacks dominance over Australia drains Bledisloe Cup of its prestige

Bledisloe Cup 2022: New Zealand dominance over Australia drains trophy of its prestige

The Rugby Championship so far

This is setting up to be one of the all-time great Rugby Championships as the fact that all four teams have their flaws means the title race is as close as it has been for years. In fact, heading into the penultimate round, just one point separates top from bottom.

New Zealand are currently top of the pile on 10 points, with South Africa, Australia and Argentina all lined up behind on 9, as every team has two wins and two losses through four games.

Round 1 saw South Africa down an in-crisis New Zealand 26-10 and Australia dispatch Argentina 41-26 in Mendoza but, a week later, the results were reversed as the All Blacks saved Ian Foster’s job with a 35-23 revenge win and the Pumas hammered the Wallabies 48-17.

Argentina then got their first-ever victory on New Zealand soil in Round 3 thanks to a 25-18 success, while Australia surprised the Springboks to triumph 25-17. However, the tables were again turned in Round 4 as South Africa triumphed 24-8 over the Wallabies and an angry All Blacks side pulverised the Pumas to the tune of 53-3 to leave things incredibly tight heading into the final two rounds.

Australia vs New Zealand

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of Australia vs New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, as victory in Melbourne for the All Blacks would move them a step closer to retaining the championship title.

The All Blacks’ 50-point victory over Argentina and South Africa’s win against Australia means all four teams head into the penultimate round separated by just one point in what is proving to be the closest Rugby Championship for years.

The fixture will also be the opening match of the Bledisloe Cup, which Australia have not held in two decades, as the Wallabies have been consistently dominated by their fierce rivals.

Ian Foster’s New Zealand have been vulnerable this season, and are yet to win back-to-back matches this year as the likes of France, Ireland and Argentina have all taken turns beating them, but a bonus-point victory would see them put one hand on the trophy ahead of next week’s return match in Auckland.

Stick with us for full live coverage of the match, which kicks off at 10.45am BST.

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