Steve Hansen (AFP)
Wellington - A host of New Zealand coaching greats have written off Australia's chances of achieving an upset victory over the All Blacks in the second Bledisloe Cup Test at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday.
The Wallabies, who lost the first Test in Sydney 27-19, have not won at Eden Park since 1986 and their most recent outing at the ground was a 20-6 defeat to New Zealand in the semi-final of last year's Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks' coach at that tournament, Graham Henry, said New Zealand were far better than Australia in Sydney and he expected them to improve in front of their home crowd.
"I think the gap will widen here and it could be quite significant," he told reporters Wednesday after accepting his first post-World Cup coaching position as technical adviser to the Auckland Blues Super 15 team.
Henry's former assistant at the All Blacks, Wayne Smith, who helped guide the Chiefs to this year's Super Rugby title, also saw little reason for optimism in the Australian camp.
"There is a good chance that the All Blacks could put Australia away with something to spare this weekend," he told therugbysite.com.
"If the All Blacks have a good week analytically, they will see a lot of opportunities off the set piece. If they can tidy up some of their timing issues, particularly on the offload, then it could be ominous for Australia."
New Zealander Warren Gatland, the Grand Slam-winning Wales coach who is in his homeland recuperating from a fall, expressed surprise at Australia's lack of attacking flair in Sydney, saying the team lacked "the X-factor".
"The All Blacks should have been 15, 20 points in front," he told a function in Hamilton late on Wednesday. "I think the Wallabies will find Eden Park really tough this weekend."
However, current All Blacks' coach Steve Hansen was having none of it, pointing to last year's World Cup final, when New Zealand were overwhelming favourites against France but just scraped home with an 8-7 win.
"Just go back six months with the French - we beat them by a point," he told reporters on Thursday.
"Our job is to prepare well, respect the opposition which we did, keep ourselves grounded.
The All Blacks can claim the Bledisloe Cup for the 10th successive year with a win on Saturday.