MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia expect the chastened All Blacks to fire up and raise their “physical” game at their Eden Park fortress on Saturday as the world champions look to bounce back from the Perth upset and retain the Bledisloe Cup.
The Wallabies thrashed the All Blacks 47-26 at Perth Stadium to take the annual trans-Tasman series into a decider and lift Australia’s hopes of reclaiming the trophy for the first time since 2002.
The All Blacks were reduced to 14 men at the stroke of halftime due to a red card to lock Scott Barrett, but the Wallabies’ six-try performance garnered glowing reviews from both sides of ‘the ditch’ and was a huge boost for Michael Cheika’s side six weeks out from the World Cup in Japan.
Rookie number eight Isi Naisarani said the match was the most bruising of his three tests to date but he expected the All Blacks to go up a level at a venue where they remain unbeaten since a 23-20 loss to France in 1994.
“I think they’re going to come hard at us. They’re going to (be) fired up and yeah, they’re going to be physical as well,” Naisarani told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday. “So we need to mess them up.”
Australia have not beaten the All Blacks at the Auckland cauldron since 1986 and have suffered a string of one-sided thrashings by Steve Hansen’s side there in recent years.
But they will arrive this week with hope of finally breaking the drought, with the All Blacks in a rare state of disorganisation.
With Barrett suspended for three weeks for his dangerous charge on captain Michael Hooper and Brodie Retallick battling a shoulder injury, the home side have a sudden shortage of second row forwards.
In-form centre Jack Goodhue will also miss the match with a hamstring injury, though able replacements abound in the position.
Australia, meanwhile, can look forward to the return of world class loose forward David Pocock, who is expected to be available for selection after battling a serious calf injury for months.
Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale said there were virtues in sticking to the same starting 15 that racked up a record 47 points against the All Blacks but master ball-poacher Pocock would be a hard man to keep out.
“He was the guy with the most energy out there (at training),” he said of the 31-year-old flanker. “I think we’re kind of holding him back a little bit as well …
“His addition to the team would be awesome, someone of his calibre and experience would be very, very welcome.”
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)