All Blacks smell blood

2008-09-10 09:13

Greg Growden

Sydney - With the Wallabies planning to field their fourth centre combination for the season, the All Blacks believe they might be able to expose the Stirling Mortlock-Ryan Cross midfield pairing in Saturday night's Tri Nations decider.

The All Blacks are not exactly upset that Mortlock is at No.12, knowing he has been a far bigger danger in recent years when hovering wider at outside-centre. In many recent Bledisloe Cup matches, Mortlock has been a defining factor, with several All Blacks No.13s being exposed in the process.

The Kiwis did not give away too many clues on Tuesday when announcing their team, but the demeanour of their coaches brightened appreciably when the Australian centre pairing was mentioned.

When All Blacks coach Graham Henry was asked if the Mortlock-Cross combination could be exploited, he replied: "I hope so."

He added: "That's what you work on. You're always looking for things to work on, and in the centres they have two big physical players who are good defenders. You will always try to outwit them, and they'll be trying to do the same to us. Hopefully there is a kink there somewhere."

In Auckland last month, the All Blacks succeeded in disrupting the Wallabies' midfield through Dan Carter's accurate midfield kicking, with many high balls directed just behind halfback Luke Burgess.

Burgess will not be in Brisbane because of injury but the All Blacks are bound to continue such a policy in a bid to keep turning around the new halfback, Sam Cordingley, and inner backs Matt Giteau and Mortlock.

Henry claimed that the Wallabies's dreadful loss to South Africa at Ellis Park was the worst thing that could have happened to New Zealand rugby.

"They will be hugely disappointed with their performance, and the result," he said. "That will give them more edge and attitude, and we really don't need that."

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina; Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Res: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa/Neemia Tialata, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald, Isaia Toeava.

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