Dunedin - Such is the All Blacks' confidence going into
Saturday's Rugby Championship rematch against Australia that they have shrugged
off the loss of veteran prop Owen Franks by calmly slotting in a raw
replacement, Nepo Laulala.
Against a backdrop of honouring Colin Meads, the New Zealand
great who passed away last Sunday, the All Blacks are threatening to be even
more dominant than they were during last week's 54-34 drubbing of the Wallabies
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has tried hard to talk up
Australia as a "very dangerous beast" going into the second round
Rugby Championship match in Dunedin.
But even after replacing the 95-Test veteran Franks - who
pulled out Thursday because of a troublesome Achilles - with the four-Test
Laulala, the All Blacks should again be far too strong.
For while Hansen has talked up the wounded Wallabies, his
real focus has been on demanding the world champion All Blacks atone for their
sub-par end to the first Test.
After scoring eight tries in the first 55 minutes, a
sloppiness crept into their game that allowed Australia to come back with four
tries of their own.
"You've got to keep working, you've got to keep your
attention on what you want to do rather than taking a big sigh and a
breath," Hansen said on the need to play hard for 80 minutes.
"The opposition are going to keep working so you have
to too. Our attention went to the scoreboard ... as a result of that we threw
poor passes, our skill execution was poor, our defence was poor. There wasn't
too much that was good, really."
New Zealand attack coach Ian Foster believes part of the All
Blacks success stems from the Wallabies being too predictable with their game
"They have been consistent with that for a couple of
years, to be fair," he said.
"We kind of expected to see what we saw in the midfield
Will they change it? I am not sure."
Hansen has largely kept faith in the same starting line-up
apart from the late injury to Franks and the return of hooker Dane Coles, who
has been cleared of the concussion symptoms which sidelined him for most of the
The Wallabies, plagued by attack inaccuracies and a porous
defence last week, have made three changes, including the gamble of replacing
lock Rory Arnold with Rob Simmons.
Coach Michael Cheika said it was time for Simmons to prove
himself after being shown the door by the Queensland Reds following a
disappointing Super Rugby season.
It is "an opportunity for Simmons to put his foot
down," Cheika said. "I think it's time he puts a marker down for his
international career as well in dominating that lock position."
The other two Wallaby changes were expected, with Tevita
Kuridrani in for Samu Kerevi and a fit again Dane Haylett-Petty taking over
from Curtis Rona on the wing.
Rather than fret about their poor first half last week,
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has highlighted how their game clicked in the
second half to score 28 unanswered points.
"We spoke (at half-time) about putting them under
pressure and it started to work," he said.
But while Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau showed
they could stretch the All Blacks, by then the game was over and the All Blacks
had eased up.
Hansen does not want a return of such complacency this week,
with the roofed Otago Stadium offering conditions ripe for another high-scoring
The Australians "will be hurting so that will make them
even hungrier than they have been ... they'll be a very dangerous beast,"
Hansen said. "I would expect them to be a lot more physical than they were
The All Blacks will also be inspired by playing in memory of
Meads, an icon of New Zealand rugby.
Both sides will observe a moment's silence before the match
and afterwards All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who plays in the number five
jersey Meads wore for 47 of his 55 Tests, will present his shirt to the Meads
15 Damian McKenzie; 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane; 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith; 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire; 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick; 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lopeti Timani/Jack Dempsey, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Curtis Rona