Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Date: Friday, November 1, 2019
It will be a game of farewells on Friday in Tokyo as Wales and New Zealand meet in the one game that no player ever wants to play in. The bronze medal match is a weird one, with players and coaches knowing that their tournaments – and in some cases like Wales coach Warren Gatland their tenures – will be coming to an end regardless of the result.
We got to this point with both teams losing their semi-final clashes in Yokohama last weekend. New Zealand – who went down to an inspired England – will be frustrated to not be competing for a third consecutive crown on Saturday. Wales – who were out physicalled by South Africa in a close encounter – will be ruing their injury luck as they yet again failed to quite reach their goal of playing in a World Cup final.
This is a game where lineups are often a little unique as coaches try to mix up a side that will win by also giving time to those players who have been in Japan for a month and a half without getting much rugby in.
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The All Blacks have made seven changes to their starting XV and coach Steve Hansen has made three changes to his bench for this clash. Dane Coles is in at hooker and Scott Barrett is moved back to his more natural lock, with Codie Taylor and Sam Whitelock making way. Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell are the other additions to the pack, with Cane, in particular, looking for a big performance after his shocking benching last week.
The backline features a trio of legends on their way out in Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith, with Rieko Ioane – the forgotten man of this World Cup – finally getting his chance on the wing. Aaron Smith starts at No. 9 with TJ Perenara battling through a couple of knocks.
The Welsh have made nine changes to the team that lost to South Africa. The core of Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty remain, with those players looking to provide the leadership and experience with a host of new faces around them. This means that bit-part players at this tournament – the likes of Nicky Smith, James Davies, and Hallam Amos – will all get to face the mighty All Blacks.
There is also a spot in the starting lineup for Owen Lane, a player drafted into the squad just a week ago as cover for the injured Liam Williams.
The spread here is 19.5 on BetXChange with there being no value in picking a New Zealand team that are expected to run away with this one. The All Blacks have much more strength in depth in their squad than Wales – especially given the Welsh injuries – so take the All Blacks to win -19.5 at 0.90 with BetXChange.