Gregan's men face Eden Park whitewash - Rugby Union - Rugby - The Independent

Gregan's men face Eden Park whitewash

It would be as well for Aussie rugby supporters not to expect much from today's final Tri-Nations match of 2005, the meeting of New Zealand and Australia in Auckland. The All Blacks, having squeezed out South Africa last week, will reclaim the trophy if they beat the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Great furrows have lined Australian brows this week. The Wallabies have lost their last four Test matches, a dire run unknown for nearly a quarter of a century. They have lost their first three choices at fly-half, Stephen Larkham, Elton Flatley and Matt Giteau, to injury and will play their former rugby league full-back Matt Rogers in the No 10 jersey today. Rogers has played there before, but only as a schoolboy.

The Wallabies are in the midst of an injury crisis that has exposed the empty cupboards of Australian rugby. Their front row might be wily but it is weak, the second row is without its best operator, Daniel Vickerman, and the back-row combination has been changed yet again, a clear sign of selectorial uncertainty.

Three flankers - Rocky Elsom, Phil Waugh and George Smith - play in the absence through injury of the regular No 8 David Lyons. Chris Latham, Stirling Mortlock, Wendell Sailor and Jeremy Paul are also missing.

The All Blacks have had injury concerns of their own this week, such was the intensity of the Dunedin encounter with the Springboks. The scrum-half Piri Weepu, who made significant progress as a Test player that evening, has shaken off a thigh strain to take his place, but doubt still remains over Leon MacDonald at fly-half.

The No 10 has a hip injury and a decision will not be made on his fitness until shortly before kick-off. But the difference in the back-up quality is marked. Luke McAlister, who helped to overwhelm the British and Irish Lions in the final Test, would step in if MacDonald did not make it.

Choosing the time and location to make rugby history is generally not the preserve of players. Thus, George Gregan will equal the world record of the England prop Jason Leonard with his 114th cap for the Wallabies, but bittersweet might be the word for such an experience, because Gregan's side is staring down the gun barrel.

Gregan's outstanding achievement has come against a cacophony of cries for his sacking by the Australian media, that traditionally mild-mannered, reticent body of men for whom extenuating circumstances are never allowed to delay the desires of a hanging party.

It is undeniable that Gregan is not the force he once was. But no scrum-half excels behind a beaten pack. The Australian front row seems to have lost its knack of milking penalties from stronger opponents, and their No 9 has been duly exposed.

New Zealand's status as the No 1 side in world rugby was confirmed by their victory over South Africa last weekend. The cynics would say that puts them in familiar surroundings, as they have consistently peaked between World Cups without being able to win one since 1987. But there is a growing substance to Graham Henry's squad, not least in their tight-forward play, that foretells of major difficulties for the other major nations in the build-up to the next World Cup in France in 2007.

Not that the All Blacks are duped by forecasts of a sporting slaughter beneath the Eden Park floodlights.

"Australia will play out of their skins in this match, we expect nothing less from them," Henry said. "They are a very proud sporting nation and will give everything they have, whatever the circumstances. That is their way."

It might not be the rout some predict. But it is only three weeks since the All Blacks beat Australia 30-13 in Sydney and for this battered, patched-up Wallaby side to stop the All Blacks in their own back yard will require something close to supernatural force.

The beleaguered Wallaby coach Eddie Jones says his team has little to lose. Which is true if you discount the prospect of a first Tri-Nations whitewash, a fifth successive Test loss and another defeat at the hands of their mortal enemy.

A celebratory party for Gregan? It looks doubtful.

New Zealand: M Muliaina; D Howlett, T Umaga (capt), A Mauger, J Rokocoko; L MacDonald, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, A Williams, S Lauaki, R McCaw, R So'oialo. Replacements: D Whitcombe, G Somerville, J Ryan, M Holah, K Senio, L McAlister, C Smith.

Australia: D Mitchell; M Gerrard, C Rathbone, M Turinui, L Tuqiri; M Rogers, G Gregan (capt); B Young, B Cannon, A Baxter, M Chisholm, N Sharpe, R Elsom, P Waugh, G Smith. Replacements: A Freier, M Dunning, A Kanaar, J Roe, C Whitaker, L MacKay, L Johansson.

Referee: C White (England).

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week