The All Blacks will be facing a Wallabies side without Israel Folau for the first time since the star fullback's sacking – and the Australians could be more threatening because of it, according to Beauden Barrett.
Folau – who owned the No 15 jersey during his 62 tests for Australia but was exiled after repeated homophobic posts on social media – will be a big loss to the Wallabies as they gear up for the World Cup in September.
But Folau's absence opens the door for the equally dangerous Kurtley Beale at fullback who has been in and out of the Wallabies starting line-up in the last few years, used instead as a utility back by coach Michael Cheika.
While admitting Folau was an important player for the Wallabies, All Black No 15 Barrett says his opposite number on Saturday night poses an equal, if not greater threat.
"We're all aware of Israel Folau's capabilities and the strength he has from a physical point of view," Barrett said.
"[But] Kurtley's a very exciting player and he's so unpredictable I think they certainly don't lose anything by having him there, if anything it's probably more threatening."
The veteran Beale provided a much-needed spark off the bench for the Wallabies in their loss to the Springboks last month and was one of the best players on the pitch in their first win of the year against the Pumas.
All Blacks winger/fullback Ben Smith echoed his teammate's sentiments, saying Beale has the "same X-factor" that Folau had.
"He (Folau) is a world-class player ... but Kurtley Beale has got that same X-factor and he's a quality player too," Smith said. "Kurtley Beale is pretty dangerous. He has a good sidestep."
Saturday's test in Perth will be the second time Barrett lines up at fullback alongside No 10 Richie Mo'unga, an experiment which got off to a shaky start but showed glimpses of promise in the All Blacks' 16-16 draw against South Africa in Wellington.
Barrett said he hopes his dual playmaker partnership with Mo'unga gels better this weekend and was full of praise for the first-five.
"I think we've learned a lot from one having one game under our belts," Barrett said. "At times we were perhaps in each other's pockets. Tactically and structurally, if we can be aligned, it will work best for the team and we should see some good rewards from that."
"He's a cool young guy," he added about Mo'unga. "He's very calm when he speaks. Playing alongside him, there's a great sense of calmness and that's a quality of his that rubs off on the boys in those tough moments when you just need to steady the ship and keep things simple."