It's a boy for Conrad Smith

By Wayne Thompson, Teuila Fuatai

Wife delivers as Saturday’s Eden Park test against Wallabies shapes up as a blockbuster.

New father Conrad Smith is likely to be available.
New father Conrad Smith is likely to be available.

Conrad Smith looks set to make Saturday's Bledisloe Cup crunch match after he and wife Lee-Anne Snowdon welcomed a baby boy yesterday.

Smith missed the Sydney test after rushing home to be with Ms Snowdon on Friday night when she started to show signs of early labour. The All Blacks management confirmed the baby was born yesterday afternoon.

The scene is set for Auckland's Eden Park to host one of the biggest rugby matches of the year after a hard-fought 12-12 draw with Australia on Saturday, which ended the All Blacks' quest for a record 18 consecutive wins.

Fans are focusing on this Saturday's crunch encounter in the country's largest stadium - something Auckland's accommodation and hospitality businesses are welcoming as a chance for extra business in the winter season.

"The All Blacks haven't lost at Eden Park since 1994 and with a draw in the first Bledisloe test, this test is shaping up to be one of the biggest matches of the year," said Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development chief executive Brett O'Riley.

"Auckland is looking forward to hosting the event this weekend - in the city where the show never stops."

Eden Park is called the spiritual home of the All Blacks, having been the scene of their World Cup final wins in 1987 and 2011. No Australian team have beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park since 1986.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie's side will be hoping this is their year.

A clean sweep of France in June and the Waratahs' Super Rugby victory have imbued his team with a self-belief that is almost palpable.

Last Saturday's game at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney was disappointing to many New Zealand rugby fans, who were waiting for the All Blacks to extend their consecutive victories to a world- record 18.

All Blacks coach from 1985-87 Sir Brian Lochore said that while it was disappointing, the draw was a fair reflection of the game.

"I don't think you could say either side deserved to win, though Australia had more opportunities in the second half but the All Blacks had for 20 minutes only 14 players."

Sir Brian said players on both sides would have been frustrated by the difficult conditions but it was frustrating too that there were so many penalties in the scrums.

"The referee didn't allow them to play. The ruck and maul rule has become frustrating, along with the scrum rules. It's become so technical when all the referee needs to worry about is getting rid of the cheats."

All Black forward from 1995-2000 Josh Kronfeld said he was surprised to find that Australia seemed the more proactive team and monopolised the ball.

Watch: Rugby Highlights: All Blacks 12 Wallabies 12

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"They rose above themselves and it set the whole thing up for an interesting game - the Bledisloe is still open for grabs, which is fantastic for the competition."

He thought the wet conditions evened up the game, though each team gave the other a chance to win it.

"Both teams attacked when they could and both made mistakes at crucial times.

"I think the rewarding thing is although we had two yellow cards, we did not cough up any tries."

All Blacks midfielder Ma'a Nonu and loose forward Jerome Kaino were injured during the game.

They will have scans to see if they are fit to play on Saturday.

Nonu suffered a shoulder injury in the second half and Kaino an elbow and arm injury.

Coach Steve Hansen said: "I'd say we'd be sweating on whether or not Nonu will be right..."

Kaino's injury is thought to be less serious, and a minor shoulder injury suffered by captain Richie McCaw is not likely to affect his availability.

A potential replacement for Nonu is Conrad Smith, who is likely to partner Malakai Fekitoa in midfield.

- additional reporting: APNZ

- NZ Herald

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