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Plenty still to play for in Tri-Nations finale

Plenty still to play for in Tri-Nations finale

New Zealand has already won back the Tri-Nations title and retained the Bledisloe Cup, yet again, but there's no chance they'll take it easy against Australia on Saturday with a record on the line.
The All Blacks have beaten the Wallabies in nine straight tests, equaling their record set in trans-Tasman rugby union tests between 1936 and 1947.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry made five changes to the lineup which beat South Africa 29-22 in Soweto last month to clinch the Tri-Nations, saying it was more a reward for performance for the New Zealanders than any sign of easing off. The pursuit of a 10th consecutive victory over Australia is still a big motivation.
In the major change, injured playmaker Dan Carter will be replaced by Aaron Cruden at flyhalf.
Israel Dagg, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu and Owen Franks have all come into the starting lineup for Joe Rokocoko, Jerome Kaino, Jimmy Cowan and Ben Franks.
The absence of Carter could give Australia a slight tactical advantage, compounding the homeground support in Sydney, with the irrepressible Quade Cooper starting a Bledisloe Cup test for the first time, and facing an inexperienced Cruden rather than a rampant Carter.
Cooper signed a one-year contract with the Australian Rugby Union on Friday, keeping him in the sport through next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and ending months of speculation about him crossing codes to rugby league.
Cooper missed the opening two matches against New Zealand this series because he was suspended for a dangerous tackle in Australia's opening win over South Africa. Queensland and Australia halves partner Will Genia said the Wallabies missed Cooper's creativity.
"Hopefully he can bring that to the game on Saturday," Genia said. "Dan Carter is massive for them. They're going to have to change the way they play a little bit because he controls their game so well."
The Wallabies haven't beaten New Zealand since Robbie Deans' first test in charge. The nine losses since then have added pressure on Deans, a former All Blacks assistant coach and the first foreigner to coach Australia's national XV.
But the Wallabies are coming off a dramatic 41-39 win over the World Cup champion Springboks at Bloemfontein _ Australia's first win on South Africa's high veldt in 47 years _ when fullback Kurtley Beale landed a last-minute, long-range penalty to clinch it after the hosts stormed back from a 31-6 deficit.
"We haven't beaten (New Zealand) in a long time," Genia said this week. "We created history with the last game that we played and there's a very good chance we can do it this weekend.
"It just adds more to how big the challenge is."
Being able to convert the big early lead into a win, after wasting a similar opportunity the previous week at Pretoria, "instils a lot of belief within the group," Genia said.
Added Deans: "We've shown that promise previously. When you get up in games that are tenuous it does add to your core. The key now is to turn it into a habit."
Deans has only made one enforced change to the lineup which won at Bloemfontein last weekend, with Lachie Turner replacing injured winger Drew Mitchell.
Richie McCaw will beat Sean Fitzpatrick's record of 51 tests as All Blacks captain when he starts against Australia. He says the importance of a win over Australia in Sydney is high, but still secondary to New Zealand's target of winning the World Cup at home.
"In the back of your mind the goal is to be ready to play in 12 months time at your peak, that's what we're working towards."
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Lineups:
Australia: Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Ben McCalman, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (captan), Nathan Sharpe, Mark Chisholm, Salesi Ma'afu, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Huia Edmonds, James Slipper, Dean Mumm, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Faingaa.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Victor Vito, Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Jerome Kaino, Jimmy Cowan, Colin Slade, Rene Ranger.


Updated : 2021-07-27 15:49 GMT+08:00