Gregor Paul in Tokyo

Any doubts about the All Blacks' level of respect for the Wallabies have been put to bed by not only the team they have picked to start in Yokohama, but also by Steve Hansen's warning that Australia hold a world ranking that gets nowhere near to reflecting their true ability.

Whether the All Blacks win or not, there is simply no chance they will underestimate the threat they face tomorrow.

The Wallabies are currently ranked seventh in the world - a position to which they have slipped with alarming speed after losing a June series to Ireland and then four Rugby Championship encounters.


But while it's clear that many Australians are giving up on their own team, the All Blacks won't make that same mistake.

"I don't think that [world ranking] is a reflection of how good they are," said Hansen, when asked if seventh was a fair place for the Wallabies to occupy.

"They can beat anybody. If things go well for them on the day, they are capable of beating anyone which I think is a good sign for world rugby, isn't it?

"If your seventh-ranked side can beat anyone, you would expect everyone between them and your No1 to be able to do the same."

This, unexpected perhaps, prolonged show of respect for the Wallabies is being driven by a number of factors.

Steve Hansen and Kieran Read. Photo / Photopsort
Steve Hansen and Kieran Read. Photo / Photopsort

There's the still fresh memory of the All Blacks losing the corresponding fixture in Brisbane last year.

There's also the stunning second-half comeback the Wallabies pulled off in their last test against the Pumas which may be one of those turning point moments.

And there is also the knowledge that Australians tend to have a natural self-belief.


The All Blacks have referred to this natural confidence before and it is often misconstrued by Australians as a slight - interpreted as an accusation of being over-confident.

But Hansen says it's not an accusation at all. "We are not saying that. As a group of people Aussies have a lot of self-confidence and I would rather have that than a weakness which allows you to self-doubt," he said.

"They can lose five, six, seven games in a row and come out and beat the best team in the world because they believe they can.

"There is definitely a mark of respect from our guys. We know we love playing them and I think they love playing us. We love beating them and they love beating us.

"It is a one-off game and winner takes all so, whoever does win it, gets to have an easier summer than the blokes who don't.

"If you go through our history Australia are the one team who have damaged us the most. They have beaten us more than most other teams."

The All Blacks have shown that respect in the team they picked.

Damian McKenzie has come in to play fullback to give the All Blacks two playmakers from the start.

Whether the All Blacks can find a way to have three on the park at one time is not inconceivable. Richie Mo'unga could come off the bench for one of the midfielders, pushing Beauden Barrett to fullback, McKenzie to the wing and Rieko Ioane to centre.

"We want two playmakers on the park and Damian has spent a lot of time at five-eighth and he has those skills as a playmaker," said Hansen.

"And we have Mo'unga to come off the bench so regardless of what happens we will have two available to us for the 80 minutes."

Brodie Retallick starts on the bench because he's not considered to have had enough rugby behind him to start, while Dane Coles will come into the frame for next week's test against Japan.