All Blacks eye history in ‘massive’ game
The All Blacks said they were primed to make history and Australia did their best to shut down the hype yesterday as the world champions seek a record-breaking 18th consecutive Test win.
Despite a pressure-laden build-up, captain Kieran Read was in a relaxed and jovial mood ahead of yesterday’s game at Auckland’s Eden Park, which has been a fortress for the All Blacks. “The boys are excited. We’re up for this challenge. It’s going to be a massive game, I’m really looking forward to it,” said Read. “Obviously, it hasn’t been done in the history of tierone nations. As a game against Australia, we’ve got to prepare like all the other games where we’ve been successful.” Victory on Saturday would break a 47-year-old record which was set by New Zealand in 1965-1969 and has been equalled twice, by South Africa in 1997-1998 and the All Blacks in 2013-2014. The hosts have won their last 35 Tests at Eden Park, where Australia haven’t tasted success for 30 years-but the Wallabies do have a habit of snapping All Blacks winning streaks. In 2010 they stopped a run of 15 All Blacks victories. They halted a 16-match winning streak in 2012 and two years later, a 12-12 draw in Sydney left the All Blacks stranded on 17. But while the All Blacks named their strongest possible line-up, the Wallabies opted for an experimental team. Coach Michael Cheika made four changes to their side that beat Argentina 33-21 two weeks ago, saying he wanted a “different feel” for the game as he looked to the future. The Wallabies this year have been way below the form that took them to the World Cup final 11 months ago and for Cheika, it meant going back to the drawing board. “We understand that instead of moaning and complaining about not having depth we’ve got to go out there and create,” he said, adding that playing the All Blacks “will be excellent in giving us experience.”
‘NOT JUST ANOTHER GAME’
Most of Australia’s current players weren’t even born when the Wallabies last won in Auckland, but Cheika was not interested in revisiting history. “Every Test match is a big occasion. If we start thinking about those things and thinking what’s not possible you’ll come up with a negative answer,” he said Friday after putting his side through their one training run in New Zealand. “You’d be blind not to see that we haven’t done well here for a fair while but if you don’t have the dream or conception inside that you can go out there and do it then it’s never going to happen.” Although the All Blacks are overwhelming favourites, Read said the All Blacks knew from past experience that they couldn’t take the Wallabies lightly. “We’ve learned that it isn’t just another game. When you’ve got something on the line oppositions raise their game and we’ve got to certainly raise ours,” he said. — AFP