Australia lost the opening Bledisloe Cup encounter 30-13 in Christchurch as the first contingent of England's squad assembled in Sydney. Rowell, who watched the game on television, said the All Blacks had caught Australia on the hop in the first half, leading 23-3 at half-time.
He praised the Australian captain and lock John Eales for another courageous performance and was also impressed with the scrum-half, George Gregan, and stand-off Tim Horan.
Rowell said: "Australia's scrummaging seemed a little awry, which they will put right next week no doubt, that's just a straightforward focus thing.
"But in the second half, Australia looked up there with the best in the world. They got their drive in the loose going extremely well and spun it at will, with Horan instituting some good distribution at times.
"We see them as formidable. They have come through rebuilding from the World Cup extremely well and are getting better all the time."
Rowell received the encouraging news that Tony Underwood was confident that he could make tonight's flight from Johannesburg, despite suffering a thigh injury during the third Test defeat by South Africa.Reuse content