NZ to call up heavy artillery
Wellington -The All Blacks will roll out most of their remaining heavy artillery for next weekend's crucial Tri-Nations rugby Test against the Wallabies in Auckland.
At stake is the chance to gain a psychological edge in the lead up to the World Cup in September, as well as the immediate rewards of the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby rivalry, and lead the Tri-Nations table.
"It's going to be a huge contest at Eden Park," said All Blacks coach Graham Henry after his side demolished an under-strength Springboks 40-7 in Wellington on Saturday a week after the Wallabies disposed of the South Africans 39-20.
Frontline All Blacks forwards Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn and Kieran Read will all be available for the Wallabies Test after being rested since the Super Rugby series.
Wing Hosea Gear is also likely to play after being out with hamstring problems leaving Israel Dagg and Tony Woodcock on the injured list where they have been joined by John Afoa who fractured a cheekbone against the Springboks.
By bringing in the powerful quartet of forwards, Henry is aiming to firmly control the battle up front and dilute the attacking options of the Australian backs, in particular halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
"They've got some players there that are very clever players particularly in the backs," Henry said.
"I'm looking forward to that game. I think it can be a real test of our mentality, our ability to handle things that they do quite different from what the South Africans do because of the quality of their back play."
Henry rated the All Blacks' performance against the Springboks at 70%, saying it was an improvement on their season-opener against Fiji the previous week but there remained plenty to work on.
"Our kicking game at times lacked what we wanted to achieve out of it and the defence around the rucks can be improved."