By Angelo Risso

The All Blacks may have waltzed through Taranaki and Counties Manukau in the "Game of Three Halves" but returning hooker Dane Coles isn't expecting such an easy ride against Australia.

The world champions cruised to victory over their provincial opponents in Pukekohe, first crushing Taranaki 57-7 and then Counties 49-0.

Having missed a huge chunk of rugby in 2017 with lingering concussion symptoms, the match marked Coles' first All Blacks hit-out of the year.


The 30-year-old was glad to get the extra running into his legs, particularly after a fortnight on the sidelines following the Hurricanes' Super Rugby semifinal loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.

But far more work will be required to topple the Wallabies in next Saturday's Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.

"It's not going to be that easy next week, that's for sure - we threw the ball around and got some good tries but I'm sure there's plenty more hard work that has to go into next week to get a performance," Coles said.

"We had a bit of fun [and] it's not going to be like that next week, but it's always good to get the ball and have a bit of a go."

With Owen Franks rested following last week's Super Rugby-winning exploits with the Crusaders, Coles packed down in the scrum alongside Chiefs tighthead Nepo Laulala - the heir apparent to the departed Charlie Faumuina.

Coles describes Laulala - who has played four tests for the All Blacks - as a world-class operator more than capable of slotting into the No3 jumper - especially important given Franks' niggling Achilles injury.

"Nepo and Ofa [Tu'ungafasi], we haven't had too much rugby together but it was good to scrum with them - we caused a bit of havoc at scrum time, so it's good to get those combinations going," Coles said.

"Whatever happens next week, I'm sure Nepo will be ready to go."