Carter's absence gives Wallabies hope as All Blacks seek perfect 10

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The Independent Online

New Zealand have already regained the Tri-Nations title and retained the Bledisloe Cup, yet again, but there's no chance they'll take it easy against Australia today with a record on the line. The All Blacks have beaten the Wallabies in nine straight tests, equalling their run in trans-Tasman rugby union Tests between 1936 and 1947.

The All Blacks coach, Graham Henry, has made five changes to the line-up which beat South Africa 29-22 in Soweto last month to clinch the Tri-Nations, but the pursuit of a 10th consecutive victory over Australia is still a big motivation.

In the major change, injured playmaker Dan Carter will be replaced by Aaron Cruden at fly-half. Israel Dagg, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu and Owen Franks have all come into the starting line-up for Joe Rokocoko, Jerome Kaino, Jimmy Cowan and Ben Franks.

The absence of Carter could give Australia a slight tactical advantage, as could the home support in Sydney, with the irrepressible Quade Cooper starting a Bledisloe Cup for the first time and facing an inexperienced Cruden rather than a rampant Carter.

Cooper was suspended for a dangerous tackle in Australia's opening win over South Africa. Queensland and Australia halves partner Will Genia said the Wallabies missed his creativity. "Hopefully he can bring that to the game on Saturday," Genia said. "Dan Carter is massive for them. They're going to have to change the way they play a little bit because he controls their game so well."

The Wallabies haven't beaten New Zealand since Robbie Deans' first Test in charge. The nine losses since then have added pressure on Deans, a former All Blacks assistant coach and the first foreigner to coach Australia.

But the Wallabies are coming off a dramatic 41-39 win over the World Cup champion Springboks at Bloemfontein – Australia's first win on South Africa's high veldt in 47 years.

"We haven't beaten [New Zealand] in a long time," Genia said. "We created history with the last game that we played and there's a very good chance we can do it this weekend. It just adds more to how big the challenge is."

Deans has only made one enforced change to the line-up which won at Bloemfontein last weekend, with Lachie Turner replacing injured winger Drew Mitchell. Richie McCaw will beat Sean Fitzpatrick's record of 51 tests as All Blacks captain when he starts. He says the importance of a win over Australia in Sydney is high, but still secondary to New Zealand's target of winning the World Cup at home.

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