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Preview: All Blacks v Australia

Photosport

Sportal.co.nz     28 Jul 2006     Photosport

VENUE & TIME: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, July 29 10:00pm NZT

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 124 - All Blacks 82, Australia 37, Draws 5.

LAST TIME: July 8, 2006 (Christchurch) - All Blacks 32 - 12 Wallabies

WALKING WOUNDED: Hooker Tai McIsaac has recovered from broken ribs and will start on the bench with veteran Jeremy Paul in the Number 2 jersey. Centre Matt Giteau gets his first start against the All Blacks this season after putting in a man-of-the-match performance against the Springboks, while vice-captain Dan Vickerman has shrugged off a shoulder injury and will take his place in the team. Winger Clyde Rathbone is over a hamstring strain and loose forward Wycliff Palu is back in the squad. For the All Blacks, Byron Kelleher replaces the injured Piri Weepu at scrumhalf, while prop Tony Woodcock has recovered from a calf problem earlier in the week.

FORM: The Wallabies are riding high after their 49-0 demolition of the South Africa but coach John Connolly has warned that the All Blacks are the form team in the world at the moment. Changes to the side which battled against the Springboks last week have returned the side to near full strength. Coach Graham Henry was disappointed with his team's performance and believes they will also need to step up if they are to beat the in-form Wallabies on their home turf.

WHO'S HOT: Matt Giteau made a triumphant return to the starting line-up with a man-of-the-match performance in Brisbane, running rings around the opposition and showing few signs he had undergone surgery just months earlier. Skipper George Gregan had a solid match against the Springboks and the world's most capped player reaches another milestone this weekend when he equals John Eales' record of 55 Tests as captain. Dan Carter rarely fails to impress and despite a bad start last week against the Springboks he still managed to score 25 points with the boot and was instrumental in at least two tries. Australia is expecting a tougher contest in the loose with George Smith, Rocky Elsom and Scott Fava.

WE THINK: Australia will be a much more confident unit and mindful of committing the mistakes that provided chances for the All Blacks in their first clash. But its front row remains a potential Achilles heel. There is plenty to play for, for the New Zealanders. They know the Bledisloe Cup can be wrapped up for the year, and achieving that would allow full attention to be placed on securing the Philips Tri Nations as well. This could be one of the liveliest contests of the year.

TEAMS:

Australia: 1 - Greg Holmes, 2 - Jeremy Paul, 3 - Rodney Blake, 4 - Nathan Sharpe, 5 - Dan Vickerman, 6 - Rocky Elsom, 7 - George Smith, 8 - Scott Fava, 9 - George Gregan (Captain), 10 - Stephen Larkham,11 - Lote Tuqiri, 12 - Matt Giteau, 13 - Stirling Mortlock, 14 - Mark Gerrard, 15 - Chris Latham,.

Reserves: 16 - Tai McIsaac, 17 - Al Baxter, 18 - Guy Shepherdson, 19 - Mark Chisholm, 20 - Phil Waugh, 21 - Wycliff Palu, 22 - Sam Cordingley, 23 - Mat Rogers, 24 - Clyde Rathbone (two to be omitted)

All Blacks:

1 - Tony Woodcock, 2 - Keven Mealamu, 3 - Carl Hayman, 4 - Ali Williams, 5 - Chris Jack, 6 - Jerry Collins, 7 - Richie McCaw (Captain), 8 - Rodney So'oialo, 9 - Byron Kelleher, 10 - Daniel Carter, 11 - Joe Rokocoko, 12 - Aaron Mauger, 13 - Mils Mulianina, 14 - Rico Gear, 15 - Leon MacDonald.

Reserves: 16 - Andrew Hore, 17 - Greg Somerville, 18 - Jason Eaton, 19 - Chris Masoe, 20 - Jimmy Cowan, 21 - Luke McAlister, 22 - Isaia Toeava.

Referee: A Rolland

Touch judges: J Jutge, M Jonker

TMO: W Roos