Super Rugby Trans-Tasman continues to be tough going for Australia's franchises, with the five Kiwi teams dishing out a second consecutive week of rugby lessons to their rivals from across the Tasman.
That has put the future of a planned, fully unified, 2022 Trans-Tasman competition -- including the Moana Pasifika and Fiji Drua franchises -- in the spotlight with Rugby Australia administrators apparently split on what is the best structure for Australia's teams moving forward.
A more immediate focus will be whether or not Australia's outfits can get a win in Round 3, or perhaps whether they will register a victory at ALL?!
Stay across all the line-ups for Round 3 as they're named below, as we analyse each fixture and its respective odds.
Friday, May 28
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Orbyn Leger, Luke Campbell; Gareth Evans, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsip, Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia. Replacements: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, James Blackwell, Ardie Savea, Cam Roigard, Billy Proctor, Vince Aso.
Force: Rob Kearney, Toni Pulu, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin (c), Jordan Olowofela, Domingo Miotti, Tomas Cubelli, Tim Anstee, Kane Koteka, Fergus Lee-Warner, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Andrew Ready, Tom Robertson. Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, Angus Wagner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Jack McGregor, Tevita Kuridrani
Odds [tab.com.au]: Hurricanes $1.06, -32.5 $1.90; Force $4.50 +32.5 $1.90 [Odds correct as of 9am 26/5]
Verdict: The best performing Australian side so far this competition, the Force finally hit the road for the first match of their three match trans-Tasman trip. Perhaps unlucky not to get at least one win in their opening matches, the Force are likely to struggle to see success in New Zealand. The Hurricanes meanwhile may have secured two bonus point victories, but haven't looked a well rounded side so far. It'll be a big clash in Napier, the Hurricanes will no doubt have the edge, but if the Force can keep their discipline and shut down the stars in the Canes backline, it could be a close encounter. Tip: Hurricanes by 10
Saturday, May 29
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Dallas McLeod, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Scott Barrett , Quinten Strange, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Replacements: Nathan Vella, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Samuel Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Bryn Hall, Fergus Burke, Manasa Mataele
Waratahs: Will Harrison, Jack Maddocks, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Alex Newsome, Ben Donaldson, Jake Gordon, Will Harris, Jack Dempsey, Lachlan Swinton, Jack Whetton, Jeremy Williams, Harry Johnson-Holmes, David Porecki, Angus Bell. Replacements: Joe Cotton, Tetera Faulkner, Darcy Breen, Sam Caird, Carlo Tizzano, Jack Grant, Tepai Moeroa, Mark Nawaqanitawase
Odds: [tab.com.au] Waratahs +32.5 $1.90 ; Crusaders -32.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 9am 26/5]
Verdict: Last week the Crusaders absolutely hammered a poor Reds, expect them to go even further this week when they take on the Waratahs in Wollongong. Winless so far this season, the Waratahs have begun to show signs of steadying the ship, but still haven't been able to put out a full 80-minute performance. A young side with a few moving parts heading into the weekend, the best the Tahs can hope for is denying the Crusaders a record victory. Tip: Crusaders by 45+
Blues: Zarn Sullivan, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, AJ Lam, Otere Black, Finlay Christie, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Tom Robinson, Josh Goodue, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Marcel Renata, Kurt Eklund, Karrl Tu'inukuafe. Replacements: Soane Vikena, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Patrick Tuipulotu, Akira Ioane, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, Mark Telea
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Solomone Kata, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Henry Stowers, Tom Cusack, Rob Valetini, Nick Frost, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Connal McInerney, Scott Sio. Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Harry Lloyd, Sefo Kautai, Tom Hooper, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan. Bayley Kuenzle, Mack Hansen.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Blues $1.20 -13.5 $1.90; Brumbies $4.50 +13.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 9am 26/5]
Verdict: It took the Blues well into the second half to put the Waratahs away last week, while the Brumbies were a shambles against the Chiefs. If the Blues give the Brumbies a sniff, they could easily be the first Kiwi side to fall to a trans-Tasman rival, but the Ponies will need to make a better effort at the breakdown if they hope to out-muscle the Blues. The Brumbies have the excitement to get them over the line, but four weeks on the road could be too much to overcome. Tip: Brumbies by three
Reds: Bryce Hegarty, Suliasi Vunivalu, Hunter Paisami, Isaac Henry, Filipo Daugunu, James O'Connor, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Angus Scott-Young, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Feao Fotuakia. Replacements: Josh Nasser, Dane Zander, Zane Nonggorr, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Kalani Thomas, Hamish Stewart, Ilaisa Droasese
Chiefs: Kaleb Trask, Bailyn Sullivan, Anton Leinert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Chase Tiatia, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier, Pita Gus Sowakula, Tupou Vaa'I, Mitchell Brown, Angus Ta'avao, Bradley Slater, Aidan Ross. Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Reuben O'Neill, Sione Mafileo, Zane Kapeli, Liam Messam, Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Shaun Stevenson
Odds: [tab.com.au] Reds $2.80 +6.5 $1.95; Chiefs $1.44 -6.5 $1.85 [odds correct as of 9am 26/5]
Verdict: The Reds were absolutely embarrassed last week, and so they should have been after putting out a dismal performance. Rightly punished for their display, they were crushed by the standout team of the competition. This week won't be as challenging, but any mistakes and the Chiefs will punish them. Downing a sorry Brumbies last week, the Chiefs are on the road for a second time this season, and have made six changes, but no doubt their confidence will be high. If the Reds manage to display some form that took them to a Super Rugby AU title they should get home, but any sloppy work like has been witnessed in their first two encounters will see them on three straight losses. Tip: Reds by three
Sunday, May 30
Highlanders: Josh Ioane, Patelesio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Scott Gregory, John Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith Hugh Renton, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Josh Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Ethan De Groot. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Jeff Thwaites, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Kazuki Himeno, Kayne Hammington, Ngatungane Punivai, Billy Harmson
Rebels: George Worth, Lachie Anderson, Campbell Magnay, Matt To'omua, Marika Koroibete, Carter Gordon, Joe Powell, Isi Naisarani, Michael Wells, Rob Leota, Trevor Hosea, Ross Haylett-Petty, Cabous Eloff, Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr. Replacements: James Hanson, Matt Gibbon, Lucio Sordoni, Steve Cummins, Richard Hardwick, Frank Lomani, Stacey Ili, Andrew Kellaway
Odds: [tab.com.au] Highlanders $1.05 -22.5 $1.90; Rebels $10 +22.5 $1.90
Verdict: The worst of the Australian bunch at the moment, the Rebels managed to move away from their rabble that was their first outing, but still look like they have no idea what to do with ball in hand. It'll be a long afternoon again for the team, but at least they won't have had to travel all the way to New Zealand, instead they'll be playing in Sydney due to COVID restrictions. The Highlanders will be pretty disappointed they won't get to play in front of a sold out crowd in Queenstown, but that won't take anything away from their game. Looking more structured and putting in back-to-back performances, they'll come home with a nice bonus point victory. Tip: Highlanders by 20