Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Aussies stick with status quo

The Wallabies' test selection can't have taken long.

Not after they walked away from their opening Bledisloe Cup skirmish against the All Blacks with a draw and no injuries. If coach Ewen McKenzie had been able to rub the genie bottle he would have picked Tatafu Polota-Nau for Saturday's sudden-death duel at Eden Park but the experienced hooker is still banged up after the Super 15 final.

Otherwise he had to stay with those who battled to a soggy 12-all stalemate in Sydney. The pack brought the sort of sustained vigour that had taken the Waratahs and Brumbies deep into the Super 15 while the backs looked likely in the tough conditions.

The most contentious selections were in the backline where McKenzie settled on Kurtley Beale as his five-eighths director and chose Rob Horne and Pat McCabe for specific qualities on the wing.

Having decided they were the best choices for Sydney and then watched as they survived a difficult test, McKenzie had to persist with them for Eden Park.

"We were impressed with the pressure we were able to apply in the opening test and, despite some errors, were pleased with the intent of the group to continue attacking despite the poor weather conditions," McKenzie said.

"I imagine both teams are excited by the prospect of a dry evening in Auckland on Saturday night which will have an influence on the way the game is played."

McKenzie said the Wallabies had grown in confidence and certainty since he was appointed and rushed into Bledisloe combat with scant preparation last season.

Since then, their sequence of results with the All Blacks has been 47-29, 27-16 and 41-33 losses then last week's draw, in a run which McKenzie claims gives them more conviction they can break the All Blacks' 32-match winning stretch against all rivals at Eden Park.

The Wallaby coach was delivering an optimistic mantra about the Australians' chances of creating their own piece of history and upsetting all the predictions.

They played towards their potential and had a 17-10 penalty advantage from referee Jaco Peyper while the All Blacks were untidy and had a mere 35 per cent possession yet still claimed a draw.

It is rare for this All Black side to deliver modest work in successive tests. They began steadily and built to a strong finish this year against England, who had more forward firepower than the Wallabies.

Conditions in Sydney restricted the attacking options for a team like the All Blacks who want to play at speed and use the width of the field.

- NZ Herald

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