All Blacks offer no mercy
Wallaby skipper Rocky Elsom (File)
Tokyo - New Zealand plan to twist the knife into a wounded Australia side when the teams meet in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup Test in Tokyo.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said his team would show no mercy to their trans-Tasman rivals after destroying the Wallabies 33-6 last month in an emphatic Tri-Nations signoff.
"We're hoping to turn the knife," he told reporters on Friday. "There's no real excuse not to perform like we did in Wellington."
Australia's hopes of ending a dismal run of six straight defeats to New Zealand suffered a major blow when vice-captain Berrick Barnes was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Barnes limped out of training on Thursday, forcing coach Robbie Deans to bring in youngster James O'Connor at starting fullback and move Adam Ashley-Cooper to inside centre.
O'Connor had a poor game in Wellington and McCaw made no bones about the fact the All Blacks will target the 19-year-old again in Tokyo.
"Barnes is a significant loss for them," said McCaw. "It certainly takes away one of their kicking options. It will be nice to put O'Connor under some pressure.
"If you allow him time he can be dangerous. But if you put him under pressure he can make mistakes so we want to rush him."
McCaw's counterpart Rocky Elsom, who has replaced Stirling Mortlock as Wallabies captain, was under no illusions as to the task at hand.
"It's fair comment that they're probably feeling they're a long way ahead at the moment," he said. "We don't want them feeling like that.
"This game's extremely important despite the fact we can't win the trophy anymore. We'll know at the end of the game how far ahead they are and if they've turned the knife."
While the relaxed All Blacks have been enjoying pep talks from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key - currently in Japan on state business - the mood in the Wallabies camp remains tense.
"Obviously the All Blacks are raising the bar," said under-fire Australia coach Deans. "It's going to be in at the deep end but it's a depth we're familiar with.
"We know what we're going to be up against and you always want to play the best at their best. It could be an ideal launch pad for us."
The New Zealander added: "We have the ability to adapt to Berrick's injury. We have ample plans we will bring to the game and will play to Adam's strengths."
Criticised by the Australian media following his team's form slump this year, Deans replied with gallows humour when asked about the short astroturf in-goal area at Tokyo's National Stadium.
"We'd be quite happy just to get there," he said with a sheepish grin. "We've worked very hard and I'm sure you'll see evidence of that this weekend."