Australia v New Zealand Match Preview
Injuries have struck the Wallabies again, this time in the front-row, as they prepare for their dead-rubber match against the All Blacks on Saturday night.
Author: Tim Cronin
Prop Ben Alexander and Hooker Saia Fainga'a have both been withdrawn from the squad with injuries, after having been named in the starting line-up earlier in the week.
There was some much needed good news for embattled coach Robbie Deans though, with versatile utilty back Adam Ashley-Cooper having reovered from his sickening head-clash against South Africa and able to rejoin the run-on 15, and the expereinced Drew Mitchell making his first tentative steps towards a return to rugby by claiming a spot on the bench.
The All Blacks have continued with their trend of making minor changes to their side, with Charlie Faumuina earning his first start in the front-row, and Ben Smith returning to the 22 on the bench.
As if closing in on a world record for consecutive test victories wasn't enough motivation for the World Champions they will also celebrate hooker Keven Mealamu's 100th Test-Cap, and honour head-coach Steve Hansen's late father, who passed away earlier in the week.
Let's be honest, this is a huge task for the Wallabies. Their team has been ravaged by injury, with almost all of their top-string players sitting in the casualty ward, while a mediocre season has left them devoid of confidence. The All Blacks, on the other hand, are riding high on an almost unprecedented string of victories, and have all their front-line players at their disposal. Stranger things have happened, and I have no doubt the 22 men who don the Australian jersey on Saturday night will put up a brave battle, but I simply can't see them getting up.
Prediction: All Blacks by 12.
Rugby Union Championship, Rugby Union Competitions, Rugby Union International, Rugby Union Teams, Rugby Union Today