Aussies in box seat, says Henry

2008-09-10 10:52

Sydney - Perhaps the Queensland sun is taking its toll on Graham Henry. The All Blacks coach touted the Wallabies as having the advantage for Saturday night's Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup showdown because they were thumped 53-8 by the Springboks in Johannesburg on August 31.

Coaches always play the reverse psychology card, but this really was a cracker.

He would have been hard pressed to get a bookie anywhere in Australia to agree with him, but Henry maintained the 45-point thrashing of Robbie Deans' men by the South Africans would ensure the Wallabies have a few nasty surprises in store at Suncorp Stadium.

"I don't think it [the loss at Ellis Park] had done us any favours at all," he said. "They will be hugely disappointed with their performance and the result, which will give them more edge and more attitude. We don't really need that, so that's a pity that happened."

While the usual platitudes were expected at Tuesday's team naming, few expected to hear Henry spout off so effusively about the Wallabies, who were so poor at Ellis Park.

With the Tri Nations title and the Bledisloe Cup on the line, the stakes will be huge on Saturday night and undoubtedly this was Henry's way of keeping his players, and the New Zealand public, on a knife edge.

Conceded

But if he expected anyone to believe the Springboks did not create gaping wounds deep within the Wallabies' psyche, he was clutching at straws.

The facts speak for themselves - the All Blacks have conceded just 29 points in their past three Tri-Nations matches; the Wallabies have leaked a whopping 107.

"It was always going to be a big game, it was always going to be a decider and they have got the advantage, probably, of coming off a big loss which they are obviously disappointed about," Henry said. "It will give them a great attitude."

Henry is right in stating the Wallabies should not lack motivation because defeat at the sold-out Brisbane venue would mean they will have surrendered the Bledisloe Cup for another year and the November 1 match in Hong Kong would be a dead rubber.

While Robbie Deans was forced to make four changes to his forwards and shuffle his midfield, Henry was in the privileged position of naming the same side that beat the Springboks 19-0 in Cape Town on August 17.

He has now named the same starting 15 for the past three Tri-Nations Tests. The only concern is on the bench, where prop John Afoa (sore shoulder) has been bracketed with Neemia Tialata.

Cheekbone

As expected, Richie McCaw, who did not play in the 101-14 massacre of Samoa in New Plymouth last week, returns to captain the All Blacks from openside flanker in place of Adam Thomson, who is relegated to the reserves.

Lock Brad Thorn, another rested for last week's jaunt, replaces Anthony Boric and Sitiveni Sivivatu returns to the left wing ahead of Anthony Tuitavake, who broke a cheekbone against Samoa.

Despite the All Blacks being favoured to win, Henry said the pressure was immense for all involved.

"I think the heat is on both sides. We are playing in a final. I think it is pretty obvious. We like to win things and I am sure the Australians like to win.

"As a sporting nation they like to win and we are no different. I think both sides will be feeling the pressure to perform at the weekend."

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