Kefu: All Black stars are on the wane

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Toutai Kefu has rated New Zealand vulnerable and a fading force to further fuel All Black angst over Australian disrespect.

Spicing up Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup litmus test at Eden Park, the former Wallabies enforcer felt the All Blacks had once again peaked well before the World Cup with "stars on the wane".

In contrast, he felt Robbie Deans' team was hitting their straps at the perfect time.

Kefu's comments come as New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen grumbled that Australia's players lacked respect for the world No 1-ranked team.

On top of Quade Cooper's "celebratory" in-goal shove of Richie McCaw in Hong Kong last year and Digby Ioane's post-try dance in Queensland's Super Rugby final triumph over the Crusaders, Deans' men have been branded cocky upstarts across the Tasman.

Fullback Kurtley Beale unwittingly gave the All Blacks extra artillery this week when he said the confident Wallabies backline could "tear any team apart" when on song.

But stalwart hooker Stephen Moore stressed they had utmost respect for the Tri-Nations champions.

"They are the No 1 team in the world, and we are playing them in their backyard, the way we have prepared would indicate our respect for them," he said.

However Kefu's forthright view will only cut deeper under the New Zealand skins.

The 60-test back-rower believes senior players like captain McCaw are past their best and they will succumb to the pressure of hosting the World Cup and ending a 24-year drought.

"At first I didn't think it would be a problem but some of the key players, their stars, are starting to wane a bit.

"The thing with them is they have been there done that, they've been consistent for so long.

"If there's a time for us to challenge for the mantle I think this year is the time."

Kefu also rates England, whose forward strength could scare Australia in a likely October 15 semifinal match-up.

Former All Black Grant Batty also likes the look of the Wallabies and agrees McCaw's side have already peaked but they could still have the class to make 2011 a year to remember.

"There probably isn't a lot of improvement left in New Zealand but they're not yet half-way down the slope," the Queensland-based 1970s test winger said.

Saturday's test has major World Cup ramifications for both teams as the Wallabies have not won in Auckland in 25 years, while the All Blacks are desperate to protect the fortress-like aura of their bastion. AAP

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