For me, the biggest disappointment of this weekends clash between Australia and New Zealand is that it's being played in Auckland... For two reasons really.
If it was here in Canterbury, I'd be first in line for a ticket.
It is going to be a huge game. A clash between the two top contenders for the World Cup... Two Unbeaten teams. And quite frankly, Aucklanders aren't getting behind the All Blacks like the rest of the country. The crowd won't be worthy of the spectacle.
OK - I feel guns being aimed at me, so lets not go there just now... It's another argument for another day, but lets not forget it.
So lets compare the teams...
Neither team has a large number of injury worries, but that could change closer to the game. Most notable are:
|Cully is being rated as "safe to play"... He had his snout broken during training but all going well should still start on Saturday.
|Leg and achilles tendon problems mean that Crowley is unlikely to take the field against New Zealand. Expect to see Glenn Panaho in his place.
If the Australians have a weakness, it is probably in their forwards, and to be fair, it's more of a chink in the armour than a weakness. Last Saturday the Boks were able to apply pressure up front early on with their Mack Truck forwards, but once they ran out of petrol, the tide quickly turned. The All Blacks forwards, though not as big as the Boks, will no doubt attempt to also gain some ascendancy up front. They will most likely look to do this in the front row. If Crowley can't play then Panaho, a tighthead specialist, will have to move to openside and this may provide a weakness worth probing. The Otago front row could well have enough understanding and cohesiveness to do it and unsettle the Aussies.
What can you say really. The Wallabies have a superb back line. They are a well oiled, experienced and coordinated unit. The All Black back line will have to be at their absolute best to equal them The talent is there to do it, but the matchplay and experience are not, and so far they simply haven't looked slick enough. Key for the All Blacks will be solid well organised defence and good communication. The Wallabies switch direction and change angles with precision and deadly accuracy, so the New Zealand tacklers will have to be just as deadly. As we all know, Gregan and Horan are key men - shut them down and you all but shut down the Wallaby back line... accomplish that, and you should probably buy a Lotto ticket and have a crack at walking on water too.
Hmmmm... Derek Bevan. Northern Hemisphere ref. The Aussies like him. Say no more. Well maybe we will, but not till after the game. Whatever - expect to hear a lot of whistle.
I hate making predictions, but I'll go out on a limb and be bloody patriotic!
New Zealand 20 - 16 Australia