A couple of questions before the Wallabies play at what has been a graveyard for their hopes and dreams for 32 years against a nation who haven't lost there for 24.

If things don't go to plan for the visitors at Eden Park on Saturday, will they stick around on the pitch to acknowledge Owen Franks' 100 tests in the front row – a place which really is the coalface of international rugby - or will they depart virtually en masse like they did at ANZ Stadium last weekend when Sam Whitelock was recognised for his own three-figure milestone?

And, should the All Blacks lock up the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th consecutive year, what will that do for the game in Australia, already at an extremely low ebb and with calls for coach Cheika to be sacked a year out from the World Cup?

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was asked about both issues today, and shortly after Wallabies coach Michael Cheika responded with regards to what has been described as a snub of Whitelock.


Hansen said he believed the Wallabies should stick around to celebrate Franks, adding that it was not really the All Blacks' problem that the Wallabies haven't got the results they would like, but that it was important for the game that they were a strong team.

Wary of seeing his comments taken out of context, Hansen was diplomatic about both issues, but there was also little doubt about where he stood on either.

The All Blacks would have been privately disappointed that only a handful of Wallabies stuck around to see Whitelock acknowledged but the Australians are now in a tricky situation. A change in that policy on Saturday would be an acceptance that they got it wrong, and relations between these two teams have been lukewarm at best for several years.

"It's not for me to comment on what their policy is… I know if it was us we'd stay out and acknowledge it," Hansen said. "I think it's a tremendous feat; playing 100 test matches, it doesn't matter what country it is, there's a lot of energy, a lot of mental fortitude, a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices by the player's family – his kids, his wife, his partner – to get to that point. It's worthy of respect."

Sam Whitelock's child tries to spot Wallabies players at Whitelock's milestone celebration. Photo / Getty
Sam Whitelock's child tries to spot Wallabies players at Whitelock's milestone celebration. Photo / Getty

Hansen is right, but Cheika has rarely been one to follow convention. He could leave his men to make their own minds up about whether to stick around on the pitch, but it wouldn't be a good look if few take up the opportunity and, needless to say, the All Blacks would be disappointed if they don't.

Cheika, though, said it would be a "stretch" to call it a lack of respect, not that Hansen strictly did.

"I've never seen it before," Cheika said.

"We certainly wouldn't be asking to do it on another team's ground, we do it in the dressing room, but if that's what they want to do, I'm sure they did.


"Congratulations to the player, he's a fine player. 100 caps is a really great effort and same to the lad [Owen Franks] who's grabbing it this week as well.

"There's always respect there and to say that we lack respect is a little bit of a stretch from Steve Hansen."

Hansen was also asked by Australian reporters about whether he thought the Wallabies were fit enough. Yes was the answer.

"Defending's hard work," he said. "You look at the try they scored - we had a number of people walking, and I know we're not unfit. It's the way the two teams play, I think. We had one guy run over 10km which is quite a lot for a rugby game. You have to be reasonably mentally tough as well as fit.

"They're playing the No1 team in the world and because they lose to us they're a poor side? I think that's probably naïve. They played the No2 side [Ireland] in June and they beat them in one test and they lost the other and they were narrow [losses], they weren't big thumpings.

"We want Australian rugby to be strong. I think it is strong. You have to understand that when these two teams play, you're going to have scoreboards that blow out.

"Does it hurt New Zealand rugby? No, but we want them to be strong and I think they're getting there. Obviously the patience in Australia is wearing thin because we've managed to keep the Bledisloe. We don't have it yet and we've got to earn it on Saturday night and if we don't it will be one each and look out."