Aussies on a high ahead of New Zealand rematch

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Australian Wallabies James Slipper left, is tackled by New Zealand All Black Aaron Smith during their Bledisloe Cup rugby test match in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014.The match was a draw at 12-12.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — After denying the All Blacks one record, the Wallabies will attempt to deprive them of another of more powerful and personal significance in the second Bledisloe Cup rugby test at Eden Park on Saturday.

By holding New Zealand to a 12-12 draw in last weekend's first test at Sydney, Australia ended the All Blacks' run of 17-straight test victories and prevented them gaining outright possession of the world record for most consecutive test wins.

The impregnability of the All Blacks' record on Eden Park, which stretches back to a 23-20 loss to France in 1994 and encompasses the 2011 World Cup final, would usually be enough to guarantee their favoritism for Saturday's match.

But a combination of factors — that New Zealand was soundly outplayed in Sydney, that the Wallabies are unchanged and the All Blacks are grappling with significant injuries, that Australian rugby generally seems charged with new energy — weigh in favor of the visitors.

The Wallabies took particular confidence from the fact they matched the All Blacks up front in Sydney, ending the recent history of dominance in that area that has underpinned New Zealand's 12-year run of victories in Bledisloe Cup series.

The All Blacks appeared capable at times of placing the Australian scrum under pressure but referee Jaco Peyper often intervened, preventing scrums from running their course and suppressing that advantage.

Peyper also sin-binned two All Blacks and penalized New Zealand 14 times, mostly at breakdowns, preventing them gaining possession from phase play and forcing them to sternly evaluate their discipline ahead of the return match.

Frenchman Roman Poite will control Saturday's match in Auckland and he is also known to take a hard line on scrum infringements.

"Like all parts of the game, we've made progress (at scrums)," Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said. "But I also know one bad at the day at the office (and) the headlines come out. They all get dusted off and they come out again.

"So we can't afford to have a bad day at the office."

McKenzie suggested referees favor dominant scrums.

"There's no doubt that the French referees at scrum time will favor scrums going forward," he said. "That's the sort of philosophical approach in French rugby, which I understand."

The Wallabies more effectively used the slippery ball in last weekend's rain-soaked test and will almost certainly be more dangerous on the dry ground forecast on Saturday. The All Blacks started strongly in Sydney but found their momentum broken by penalties and spent the last half of the match in desperate defense, with only 14 men for a quarter of the match.

The fact they faced the best Wallabies performance in several years and emerged with a draw even when outplayed and under-manned also gives the All Blacks some confidence for Saturday's match. If they can achieve more continuity on Saturday, they also will be more effective in dry conditions.

The loss to injury of flanker Jerome Kaino and center Ma'a Nonu, compounding the continuing absence of flyhalf Dan Carter and prop Tony Woodcock — stripping more than 300 test caps from the All Blacks' lineup — adds to the challenge New Zealand faces.

Ryan Crotty will start a test at center for the first time and lacks Nonu's line-breaking ability but the return at outside center of 78-test veteran Conrad Smith might restore direction to the All Blacks' backline.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says Peyper was wrong in law in several of his rulings in Sydney and penalized New Zealand disproportionately but he said his players must lift their game on Saturday.

"I know why we didn't perform at the weekend," Hansen said. "There were certain areas of our game we were very poor at and there was another reason which we won't go into here, but that's been dealt with as well.

"We've spoken to the referee about the scrummaging. He put his hand up, said he got the free-kicks wrong. But we can't control (the referee), we've had the discussion we needed to have and moved on. It's about us playing our game and playing it better than we played it last week."


New Zealand: Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett.

Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.

Australia: Israel Folau, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Nic White; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper.

Reserves: James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani.