Auckland - The All Blacks said they were primed to make
history and Australia did their best to shut down the hype on Friday as the
world champions seek a record-breaking 18th consecutive Test win.
Despite a pressure-laden build-up, captain Kieran Read was
in a relaxed and jovial mood ahead of Saturday's game at Auckland's Eden Park,
which has been a fortress for the All Blacks.
"The boys are excited. We're up for this challenge.
It's going to be a massive game, I'm really looking forward to it," said
"Obviously, it hasn't been done in the history of
tier-one nations. As a game against Australia, we've got to prepare like all
the other games where we've been successful."
Victory on Saturday would break a 47-year-old record which
was set by New Zealand in 1965-1969 and has been equalled twice, by South
Africa in 1997-1998 and the All Blacks in 2013-2014.
The hosts have won their last 35 Tests at Eden Park, where
Australia haven't tasted success for 30 years - but the Wallabies do have a
habit of snapping All Blacks winning streaks.
In 2010 they stopped a run of 15 All Blacks victories. They
halted a 16-match winning streak in 2012 and two years later, a 12-12 draw in
Sydney left the All Blacks stranded on 17.
But while the All Blacks named their strongest possible
line-up, the Wallabies opted for an experimental team.
Coach Michael Cheika made four changes to their side that
beat Argentina 33-21 two weeks ago, saying he wanted a "different
feel" for the game as he looked to the future.
The Wallabies this year have been way below the form that
took them to the World Cup final 11 months ago and for Cheika, it meant going
back to the drawing board.
"We understand that instead of moaning and complaining
about not having depth we've got to go out there and create," he said,
adding that playing the All Blacks "will be excellent in giving us
Most of Australia's current players weren't even born when
the Wallabies last won in Auckland, but Cheika was not interested in revisiting
"Every Test match is a big occasion. If we start
thinking about those things and thinking what's not possible you'll come up
with a negative answer," he said Friday after putting his side through
their one training run in New Zealand.
"You'd be blind not to see that we haven't done well
here for a fair while but if you don't have the dream or conception inside that
you can go out there and do it then it's never going to happen."
Although the All Blacks are overwhelming favourites, Read
said the All Blacks knew from past experience that they couldn't take the
"We've learned that it isn't just another game. When
you've got something on the line oppositions raise their game and we've got to
certainly raise ours," he said.
"We know there's that little bit extra, and that's extra
for both teams. It's not just our record, it's the Australians' record to try
and stop us from making it and that will put a bit of extra spice on it."
15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown,
12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read
(captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen
Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt
Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera
Kerr-barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa
Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Reece Hodge, 11
Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7
Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope
Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 James
Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Ala'alatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 David
Pocock, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefa Naivalu