Wallabies and All Blacks clash in World Cup dry run

While All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his Australian counterpart Robbie Deans have talked only of...

The All Blacks perform the haka during their Tri-Nations match against South Africa at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on July 30, 2011. Picture: AFP

While All Blacks coach Graham

Henry and his Australian counterpart Robbie Deans have talked

only of focusing on their Tri-Nations clash at Eden Park on

Saturday, many will inevitably see the match as a preview of the

World Cup final.

The global showpiece begins at Eden Park in 36 days, with

the final also scheduled there 44 days later -- and the

tournament's draw charts a collision course for the world's top

two rugby sides to clash for the title.

If history is any guide, Saturday's game heaps added

pressure on Australia, who have not won at the ground since

1986.

"Every ground that we play at matters when it's a test match

and we want to win it," All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen

said.

"Auckland is obviously the home here in New Zealand where

most of the big games are played because of the size of the

venue. So the importance of those matches are usually right up

there.

"Wanting to stay tight and a fortress for the want of a

better term is pretty important," added Hansen.

"That's where they are going to play the World Cup final. We

want to be in it and we want to win it. So it's important."

Deans, predictably, has brushed off the hoodoo at Eden Park,

where the All Blacks ran over the Wallabies to win 22-16 in

their last match at the ground in 2009.

"It's about now rather than the history," said Deans, a New

Zealander and former All Black assistant coach with intimate

knowledge of his opponents.

"The All Blacks do draw strength from their record at the

ground, but playing at Eden Park is not something to be feared.

"It's a challenge and an opportunity to be embraced and

enjoyed. A lot of visiting teams will be aspiring to achieve

something special at Eden Park this year.

"This weekend we're the lucky ones, we get first crack."

The match will also be a dry run for World Cup organisers,

with the east and west stands adding their temporary upper tiers

and a bumper crowd expected to test the new capacity of 61,000.

ANIMOSITY

The World Cup form-guide notwithstanding, the game also

doubles as a Bledisloe Cup match and already has plenty of

animosity bubbling away beneath the surface.

Few All Blacks have forgotten the Australian response when

James O'Connor landed a sideline conversion to hand the

Wallabies victory in their last encounter in Hong Kong last

year.

The last-gasp 26-24 win ended a 10-match losing streak to

the All Blacks and Wallabies, both past and present, have queued

up to talk up their chances ahead of Saturday's game.

Hansen said earlier this week that the bravado across the

Tasman sea had not figured in the All Blacks' preparations but

it was clear some of it had gotten under the coach's skin.

"Australians aren't in awe of us; they probably don't even

respect us," he said. "You only have to read what they have got

to say.

"We have our own motivation, we don't need anyone else to

motivate us.

"The black jersey motivates us and has done for centuries

and will continue to do so because it's such an important

jersey."

Both teams opened their Tri-Nations campaigns with thumping

wins over a South Africa side gutted of its top-line players.

Both have named their strongest sides to play each other,

however, the Wallabies retaining the lineup that beat the world

champion Springboks 39-20 in Sydney and the All Blacks bringing

back a string of hardened campaigners among seven changes.

Number eight Kieran Read and totemic hooker Keven Mealamu

add grunt to a beefed-up forward pack after missing the All

Blacks' 40-7 crushing of South Africa in Wellington last week,

while Piri Weepu replaces Jimmy Cowan at scrumhalf.