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All Blacks vice-captain Tana Umaga hopes referee Stuart Dickinson won't control tonight's test like a game of tiddlywinks.

Umaga, one of the world's premier backs, said professional rugby was a physical game for well-built athletes and he hoped the Australian official wouldn't crack down unnecessarily on strong tackling.

In last month's Super 12 semifinal the second five-eighth was caught by a television microphone telling another Australian whistler, Peter Marshall, that "we're not playing tiddlywinks" after being penalised for a tackle off the ball.

Umaga said he regretted making the comment because it had attracted so much attention, but believed disparities in how referees ruled on high tackles had crept into the game.

It was similar to the difference in interpretations of the tackle and ruck.

"The game's definitely getting more physical. If we could get a bit more consistency in the tackle, I'd be happier," Umaga said.

"Professionalism has taken players to the gym, they're looking big and buff.

"And in the modern game, everyone's looking for that offensive tackle where they get the guy, turn him and get him going backwards."

Umaga stressed he did not advocate illegal play, saying tackles should be no higher than around the shoulders.

He certainly didn't want a return to the days when players were deliberately targeted for illegal treatment.

"I think the laws are fine, it's just the way they're interpreted by each individual ref. It's how he sees it," Umaga said.

"Some are specifically looking to make their own judgment, which is different to what is written down in the lawbook."

Marshall was originally scheduled to control today's game, but had to withdraw with a hamstring injury.

All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne agreed that players should be able to look after themselves if an opponent was overstepping the mark in terms of foul play.

"Rugby is a physical challenge. If there's a bit of intimidation or someone having you on, you've got to be able to stand up a wee bit, within reason of course," Thorne said.

"I'd hate to see it go to the point where you can't touch anyone."

- NZPA

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