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Deans To Unleash Fury Of Flankers At Eden Park

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Robbie Deans. Pic: NZPA
Robbie Deans. Pic: NZPA

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Sydney, July 14 NZPA - Wallabies rugby coach Robbie Deans' bench offered the most intrigue today as he stacked it with loose forwards and predicted a fast and furious Bledisloe Cup battle in Auckland.

Deans named a predictable starting 15, with abrasive No 8 Wycliff Palu returning from a broken hand in the only change from run-on side who beat France 22-6 on June 27.

It meant a reshuffled loose forward trio, with Western Force's Richard Brown shifting to the blindside to partner George Smith, who notches his 100th test in the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup opener on Saturday.

Fellow flanker Dean Mumm drops to the bench alongside two openside foragers in Phil Waugh and David Pocock, meaning a five-two split of forwards and backs.

Debut Reds halfback Will Genia and the versatile James O'Connor provide the only backs cover.

Deans offered a clear signal of where he thinks the Eden Park test will be won, with captain Richie McCaw and Rodney So'oialo returning to bolster the hosts in the battle for breakdown possession.

"You can only put 15 blokes on the ground at a time, but it's where we expect the contest to be. It's going to be physical, it will be fast," Deans said.

"Where we possibly didn't play 80 minutes last year we'll have to play 80 minutes this year. We've got great versatility through the backs so we don't see a lot of risk."

Palu returns after two Sydney club games, with Deans identifying his ball carrying and physicality as two major pluses.

A year ago Deans started the Eden Park test with Smith and Waugh as his flankers as a fired-up All Blacks avenged their Sydney defeat with a 39-10 hiding.

With Pocock and Waugh ready to explode off the bench, he hoped the final 20 minutes could be telling, with the new tackled ball interpretations.

"They've got high workrates and there is the opportunity now for players who claim good position first, there's a greater opportunity to be rewarded for that."

Deans had the luxury of naming a settled side with an unchanged tight five and backline, marshalled by the brilliant Matt Giteau.

Defence has been one of their keys, having gone a tick under 200 minutes without conceding a try. They conceded a solitary touchdown in their three June tests against Italy and France.

But the Wallabies travel to Auckland tomorrow knowing they have not won there in 10 tests stretching back to 1986.

Their heavy defeat there last year provided Deans' main reference point this time.

"We went in hopeful and thought we'd prepared effectively, the ferocity of that (All Blacks) response is exactly what we're going to experience on Saturday.

"The circumstances are identical in many ways. That experience will be good if we can be better for it."

Another year into his coaching tenure, Deans felt his team were a better unit than in 2008.

But he was having nothing of the All Blacks being labelled understrength.

"There's no such thing," he shot back.

"They've got a very experienced pack. They'll tell you otherwise of course. But they'll be looking to that experience and pushing those buttons to draw a response.

"Rodney's going to be fresh, as is Richie. (The breakdown) will be an important area of the game."


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