Wounded All Blacks seek Eden Park 'statement' after Wallabies draw

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  • Ian Foster
    New Zealand rugby union footballer and coach

The "hurting" All Blacks will look to restore pride against Australia at their Eden Park fortress on Sunday after last week's 16-16 draw further dimmed their aura of invincibility in coach Ian Foster's first game in charge.

Foster criticised the three-time world champions' "relatively poor" game management for the drawn first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington, and warned they will not make the same mistake in round two on Sunday. 

As Test rugby's resumption goes into its second week in New Zealand, where there is no community Covid-19 transmission, a crowd of 47,000 is expected to pack Auckland's Eden Park -- where the All Blacks are unbeaten in 43 games.

However, the Wallabies are riding high. After going into the first Test as underdogs, and ended up outmuscling the All Blacks for much of the game and saw a penalty bounce off the posts after the final hooter. 

For Australia, who last won the annual Bledisloe Cup series in 2002, it was a moral victory with coach Dave Rennie saying "it's something we'll draw on Sunday afternoon". 

There is even confidence in the Wallaby camp that they can smash the curse of Eden Park, where it has been 34 years and 19 Tests since they last tasted victory.

But whenever Australia has started a Bledisloe series well in recent years they have generally been thrashed the following week, and Foster warned they can again expect a vast improvement from the All Blacks. 

"It was a game where we didn't achieve the level that we wanted to, that's clear and obvious, and yet we walked away with a 16-all draw," said Foster.

"So we're hurting and it's the way it should be. We know we've got to respond."

- No room for sentiment -

While Foster rated the All Blacks scrum and lineout as effective, he said "how we used those as weapons was probably relatively poor" and also called for more aggression.

Among five changes, Foster included blockbusting wing Caleb Clarke and moved no-nonsense hooker Dane Cole into the front row, while Beauden Barrett returns from injury to take over the fullback role. 

His 36-Test brother Scott Barrett, who has been sidelined for three months by a foot injury, will come off the bench in the second half, while experienced centre Anton Lienert-Brown starts in place of Rieko Ioane, who fluffed a certain try last week when he failed to ground the ball properly. 

Foster said he accepted criticism that the All Blacks lacked their usual edge in Wellington. 

"Those comments come every time we have a performance that doesn't reach our expectations for starters, so there's not much point arguing with them," he said. 

"Is it time for a statement? Well, yes it is."

Despite Australia's delight after the first Test, Rennie had no room for sentiment as he made four changes to his line-up. 

Hooker Folau Fainga'a, who struggled at lineout time and nearly gifted the All Blacks a try with a sloppy pass, makes way for Brandon Paenga-Amosa, and the size of the pack has been bolstered by Ned Hanigan replacing Pete Samu in the loose forwards.

Star outside back Jordan Petaia and Queensland Reds flanker Liam Wright have been added to the bench.

"We know that New Zealand will step it up another level this weekend, we're excited by the challenge ahead," Rennie said.

New Zealand have held the Bledisloe Cup for the past 18 years and after the drawn Test last weekend, Australia will need to win two of the remaining three matches to win it back. 

The third and fourth Tests will be played in Australia on October 31 and November 7 as part of the Rugby Championship, which also involves Argentina.


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