All Blacks feel the Aussie pressure
THE All Blacks insist they are under massive pressure for today’s test against Australia despite thrashing them last week – and say they rate the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup second only to the World Cup.
Bookmakers in both countries have New Zealand as red-hot favourites to clinch the Cup for the 15th consecutive year, after they opened the three-test series by beating the Wallabies 54-34 in Sydney.
But as the world champions wrapped up preparations in Dunedin – with lock Brodie Retallick among several players practising long-range drop goals – captain Kieran Read said they were taking nothing for granted.
The Bledisloe Cup doubles as part of the Rugby Championship, the southern hemisphere competition also featuring South Africa and Argentina.
“This [Bledisloe Cup] is the most important trophy we play for outside the World Cup. I’m really desperate for it. I want it,” Read said.
New Zealand built a 54-6 lead against Australia last week, but they are still smarting at the way they conceded 28 unanswered points as the Wallabies staged a revival.
“The key from our point of view is to start again,” said back-rower Read, who will be playing his 102nd test.
“We certainly weren’t happy with the last 30 minutes of last week. It was probably a great kick in the guts for us.
“We slightly took our foot off the throat, and if we’re not there mentally then they are a team that can do that. They’re dangerous, they’re hungry and they’ve certainly got a point to prove.”
In addition to the lure of sealing the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks are also drawing on the memory of New Zealand rugby icon Colin Meads, who died last Sunday aged 81.
The All Blacks will be wearing special jerseys in honour of Meads and both sides will observe a minute’s silence before the game.
The Wallabies hopes of closing the gap on the world champion All Blacks suffered “a huge blow” on the eve of today’s clash, with senior lock Adam Coleman ruled out.
Throughout the week the Australians have claimed they were not as bad as they appeared when thrashed 54-34 by New Zealand in Sydney last week and would prove it in today’s rematch.
But the recurrence of a shoulder injury to Coleman cost the Wallabies their pack enforcer and lineout caller.
“It’s a huge blow,” captain Michael Hooper said.
Coach Michael Chieka was forced to recall Rory Arnold who was dropped to the bench after last week’s performance, add 21-year-old novice Izack Rodda to the bench and ponder who would set the physical tone in Coleman’s absence.
The Wallabies also confirmed Lopeti Timani would take his place on the bench after earlier being bracketed with Jack Dempsey. – AFP
LEADER OF THE PACK: Kieran Read of the All Blacks in the New Zealand Captains Run at Eden Park earlier this year