All Blacks feel the Aussie pressure

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

LEADER OF THE PACK: Kieran Read of the All Blacks in the New Zealand Cap­tains Run at Eden Park ear­lier this year

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