All Blacks ready to show best

NZPA     29 Jul 2006    

Wallabies coach John Connolly and All Blacks backline guru Wayne Smith both set the scene for a classic open, running contest at Suncorp Stadium, provided the idyllic fine weather of this week continues.

Daniel Carter against Stephen Larkham, Aaron Mauger against Matt Giteau, Rico Gear against Lote Tuqiri...

With the scrum perhaps the only clear advantage the All Blacks take into this Test, it may take a moment of brilliance from one or two of the backs on either side to bust it open.

Connolly predicted the sellout Suncorp Stadium crowd of 52,500 and television viewers were in for a treat.

"I think both backlines, head to head across the board, there are 14 pretty special backs out there," he said.

"We hope their backline can be challenged and I'm sure New Zealand will think the same thing. By far the best two backlines in the world."

Smith agreed.

"That's spot on, and the way we like to play the game is similar. The French might dispute it because they went pretty well in South Africa."

It starts with the two men wearing No 10 -- at different times labelled the best first five-eighths in the world and Carter putting another compelling case last Saturday with his 25-point haul in the win over South Africa in Wellington.

Once again tasked with matching his stellar all-round performance which included nine out of nine kicks at goal, Carter admitted he would be happy if there was nothing too flashy.

"They've got some extremely dangerous players so if we can hold that ball and starve them of opportunities they'll get frustrated. We put an emphasis on that," Carter said.

Having had South Africa successfully put the squeeze on him before, Carter knows what it takes to shut down his opposite Larkham.

But it's easier just saying it, with the Brumbies genius back to his best in marshalling the backline to wins over England and Ireland, then the 49-0 thrashing of South Africa here a fortnight ago.

"I might stick a bit closer to Richie (McCaw) and try and work in a bit with our loosies to cut down their opportunities," Carter said.

"When he takes it to the line he's a real threat, he's got such a good pass and he can take the ball right to the line then flick a long pass and put the guys into space.

"He brings a real experience factor into these tight situations."

The two No 10s only opposed each other in a Test for the first time in Christchurch on July 8 when the All Blacks scrum paved the way for a 32-12 victory.

Carter's right-hand man Aaron Mauger is also back after missing the Springboks Test, relishing a return to a dry ground and the more open contest the Wallabies will provide.

"The combination with the four Brumbies (inside backs) will make a big difference, help things flow and get the ball to the dangerous outsides," Mauger said.

"The Australians are a lot more positive, they try to play rugby while the South Africans are pretty much in a defensive mode the whole time and try to spoil everything.

"I really enjoy the challenge against Australia -- they're class, they're skilful, they've got brains and that's what we try to be like as well. It's a really good battle for us."

Smith added spice to the Mauger-Giteau battle yesterday by saying Mauger was "as good as anyone in the world" at the moment.