The All Blacks return to their plush bug-gate hotel in Sydney tomorrow while the Wallabies have been training near the correctional centre in Cessnock for the resumption of transtasman rugby combat.

Appropriate venues for the top-ranked team in the world and one which is struggling to blend players and a style in a difficult season?

Preparations have begun to smoulder again for the All Blacks after the Super Rugby final, then fog, delayed the arrival of the substantial group of Crusaders before they stretched their frames in the game of three halves at Pukekohe last night.

Then it's off to the plush Double Bay hotel in Sydney which featured in a court hearing this week as the team's security consultant faced a charge of public mischief after a listening device was found hidden in a chair in the All Black team room last year.


About 160km north off the beaten track and away from the distractions of city life, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has ditched the niceties to put his team through the closing stages of boot-camp and toughen them up for their test programme. He's taken his players to Cessnock but the question is whether he is capable of taking them to another rugby level.

As pressure mounts on the Australian Rugby Union after their decision to axe the Force from Super Rugby, it is also rising on Cheika and his players to improve their lethargic performances in June.

Cheika has been able to work with the majority of his squad for a number of weeks because the Brumbies were the only Australian side who qualified for the Super Rugby finals before they were dispatched in the quarters.

They've been on a crash-course of fitness and drills skills designed to lift their standards under pressure and chip off some of the brittle edges which have plagued them. New captain Michael Hooper has old heads Will Genia and Kurtley Beale to bring more experience but the inspection will be on the activity of the forwards.

That should be tested by an All Black side who were not at their best in the final stages of the shared Lions test series in June and have worked to sharpen their skills and focus for next week's start to the Rugby Championship. That initial response next Saturday in Sydney will be the foundation for a series which ends against the Springboks in Cape Town on October 7.

The All Blacks have questions about managing their group through the series, with a focus on tighthead prop Owen Franks, who is troubled by an Achilles problem. They also have to decide whether Sonny Bill Williams is the best fit for the midfield after his suspension, who plays on the wing and, with the injury to Jordie Barrett, who slots into fullback once Ben Smith takes up his sabbatical.