The future of the New Zealand coach, Graham Henry, is at stake at Eden Park today, following his team's defeat by Australia in Sydney last week.
The All Blacks had a clear superiority in the scrums in that game but the referee, South Africa's Craig Joubert, allowed the Wallaby pack to collapse with impunity. That freed their impressive back row to roam and they did so to set up a famous 34-19 win.
Things could be different today in a match under the control of another South African official, Mark Lawrence. Paddy O'Brien, the International Rugby Board's referees' co-ordinator, said this week: "Teams should be allowed to scrummage. It is not on for referees to let scrums go down and just allow play to continue, unless the ball is by then at the No 8's feet."
If the All Black props Greg Somerville and Tony Woodcock are allowed a fair contest they will expose Benn Robinson and Al Baxter.
Richie McCaw, New Zealand's captain and openside flanker, is back after injury and Robbie Deans' decision to include Phil Waugh and George Smith in his back row shows where he sees control of the game under the experimental law variations: the breakdown. McCaw, therefore, will have to be at his brilliant best if the pressure on Henry is to be lifted.
New Zealand v Australia (Eden Park, Auckland; 8.35am, Sky Sports 2):
New Zealand: M Muliaina; R Kahui, C Smith, M Nonu, S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, A Hore, G Somerville, B Thorn, A Williams, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo. Replacements: K Mealamu, J Afoa, A Boric, A Thomson, P Weepu, S Donald, A Tuitavake.
Australia: A Ashley-Cooper; P Hynes, S Mortlock (capt), B Barnes, L Tuqiri; M Giteau, L Burgess; B Robinson, S Moore, A Baxter, J Horwill, N Sharpe, P Waugh, G Smith, W Palu. Replacements: T Polota-Nau, M Dunning, D Vickerman, H McMeniman, S Cordingley, R Cross, D Mitchell.
Referee: M Lawrence (South Africa).Reuse content