Two away defeats to the Springboks have shown Australia's vulnerability and meeting the All Blacks next is like surviving a road crash before bumping into a mugger.
The Wallaby coach, Eddie Jones, never a firm favourite with his country's media, is thus under pressure. He must do without the injured Chris Latham, Wendell Sailor, Stephen Larkham and Mat Rogers.
The inconsistent Matt Giteau partners George Gregan at half-back and the front row, never in danger of being an embarrassment of riches, is reshuffled with Al Baxter returning at tight-head. Australia are struggling to unearth the gems they require for their future prosperity while New Zealand and South Africa are turning out players of quality by the bucketload.
New Zealand are also coming off a Test defeat, to the South Africans last Saturday in Cape Town. Another loss would be a serious blow to Graham Henry's plans and, with that in mind, the All Blacks have restored Mils Muliaina at full-back and brought Joe Rokocoko in on the wing. They will wait until shortly before kick-off before deciding whether the ankle ligaments of the captain, Tana Umaga, have healed sufficiently. Conrad Smith stands by. Piri Weepu replaces the concussed Byron Kelleher.
Such injury concerns show that these Tri-Nations matches have an intensity which those staged in London, Dublin and Cardiff cannot provide at present.
Australia: D Mitchell; M Gerrard, S Mortlock, M Turinui, L Tuqiri; M Giteau, G Gregan (capt); B Young, J Paul, A Baxter, D Vickerman, N Sharpe, J Roe, G Smith, D Lyons. Replacements: B Cannon, M Dunning, M Chisholm, P Waugh, C Whitaker, E Flatley, C Rathbone.
New Zealand: M Muliaina; R Gear, T Umaga (capt) (or C Smith), A Mauger, J Rokocoko; D Carter, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, A Williams, J Collins, R McCaw, R So'oialo. Replacements: D Whitcombe, G Somerville, J Ryan, M Holah, K Senio, L McAlister, L MacDonald.
Referee: A Spreadbury (England).
- More about:
- All Blacks
- Mark Tucker
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Tri Nations Series