Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Australian encounter far from dead match

Still plenty of motivation for dominant All Blacks performance against Wallabies.

Dead rubber. Try telling that to someone in the All Blacks, Wallabies or the crowds trailing into Brisbane.

Stacks of Kiwis were flying into the Queensland capital yesterday to mix the car races on the Gold Coast, the Suncorp test on Saturday and whatever mischief they could achieve in between.

Those who believe this is a "dead" game will only have to look in the faces of the defeated side tomorrow to understand the consequences.

Imagine the reaction if the All Blacks, after 16 successive victories, somehow stumble or are dusted by the Wallabies.

Listen to the "dead" reaction then as all those who had passed off the test as a saunter for the All Blacks climb into their team.

That would not be pretty and nor would a loss after such a strong run this season and last.

The selectors have only tinkered with the front row where Keven Mealamu comes in for his 100th international and drags tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina in beside him.

Otherwise the side is the one which began against the Boks and delivered a comprehensive victory.

Facing them is a side which continues to be hit by injury with prop Ben Alexander withdrawing yesterday because of a wrist problem and being replaced by James Slipper.

The Wallabies have been forced to use 12 debut players this season and have lost their two kingpins, halfback Will Genia and captain David Pocock.

But they will uncover more motivation in trying to beat the All Blacks for the first time since they triumphed at Suncorp before the World Cup 14 months ago.

They will also want to send recycled skipper Nathan Sharpe away on a winning note in his final domestic test.

Whatever motives the Wallabies can find though, the All Blacks can trump them.

Mealamu's 100th, equalling the tier one record of successive victories, balancing the week for coach Steve Hansen after his father's death, ramming ideas they were "vulnerable" back down the throat of Wallabies assistant Nick Scrivener and reinforcing that they are a class above any other Southern Hemisphere foes at the moment.

Enough of them - Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Daniel Carter, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Tony Woodcock and Mealamu - started at Suncorp last year, to detail those inefficiencies and dispel any complacency.

The international roster is a grind but this is what test players choose to do for significant remuneration.

Injury disruptions have been negligible for the All Blacks and they should be in a strong mental space to lay down another telling marker this weekend.

Who would know with the Wallabies? They will give their all to begin but if the match ebbs away or their attacks are blunted by the trademark suffocating All Blacks defence, where will they go to find points?

And while there are incessant mutterings about the team's calibre and performance, there are the growing political moves now that chief executive John O'Neill has stepped aside. Even Ockers strolling to the bookies today with a lazy tenner will find it hard to punt on the men in gold.

- NZ Herald

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