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All Blacks wary of Wallabies

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The All Blacks in training ahead of their Rugby Championship match against Australia.

Auckland – While rugby brains on both sides of the Tasman have written off the Wallabies, the All Blacks cite last year's World Cup final scare as a reason they cannot take Australia lightly on Saturday.

Former All Blacks coaches Graham Henry and Wayne Smith as well as ex-Wallabies mentor Alan Jones and fly-half Mark Ella had harsh words for the Australians after their 27-19 defeat by the All Blacks in Sydney last weekend.

But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, Henry's assistant when the All Blacks scraped home 8-7 against France in the World Cup final last year, sees an eerie comparison with Saturday's return clash against the Wallabies at Eden Park.

“Just go back six months and we had a few people saying the same things about the French and we beat them by a point,” said Hansen ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clash.

“Australia will be pretty disappointed with how they played last week ... We've got to expect that they'll raise their game, their intensity and their accuracy of their game, so therefore we'll have to do the same.

“We've got plenty that we can improve on.”

Although the Wallabies were within striking distance of snatching an unlikely win up until a late penalty by Dan Carter last week, they were comprehensively outplayed throughout the match.

The All Blacks suffered from their own rustiness and Hansen has made just one forced change for the second Test – bringing in Wyatt Crockett for injured prop Tony Woodcock – to give the side more time to gel.

“We haven't played for a wee while so we felt it was important to get our combinations going and give the group that started a re-start. We were happy with how they went but we're expecting them to go up a level, “ Hansen said.

Injuries and form, however, have forced Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to restructure his side for the match, part of the second round of the four-nation Rugby Championship.

Mercurial fly-half Quade Cooper has been recalled, moving Berrick Barnes out one place, while Kurtley Beale, who had a nightmare performance a week ago, has been axed with Adam Ashley-Cooper shifted from wing to fullback.

Drew Mitchell moves on to the wing with the reshuffle costing midfielder Anthony Faingaa his place.

Flanker and skipper David Pocock as well as prop Sekope Kepu and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau have been sidelined by injury allowing Michael Hooper, Ben Alexander and Stephen Moore to be promoted to the run-on side.

Scrum-half Will Genia becomes Australia's third skipper for the year, after first choice James Horwill was injured on the eve of the June Test window.

Despite the new Wallaby line-up, Ella predicted another loss, which would ensure the All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup, which is the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy.

Teams (15-1)

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett

Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia (capt), Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.

Reserves: TBA. – Sapa-AFP


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