All Blacks Sam Cane and Kieran Read during last year’s Bledisloe Cup in Sydney.
All Blacks Sam Cane and Kieran Read during last year’s Bledisloe Cup in Sydney.

Sydney factor has the All Blacks on edge

THE All Blacks are toning back their "Wallabies are favourites" line but believe the Sydney factor makes the Bledisloe Cup opener a danger game.

Coach Steve Hansen swivelled heads on both sides of the Tasman when he said the Wallabies were "worthy of starting as favourites" to reclaim the silverware they lost in 2003.

The merits of the claim have been challenged by former Wallaby Stirling Mortlock, who told AAP it was "tripe."

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster backed away from the debate, describing favouritism for the three-match series as irrelevant.

However, he was sure next week's Test would be a sizeable challenge for the world champions, who have won only 11 of 23 Tests in Sydney since 1990.

That theory brushes over the last two meetings, which the All Blacks won 42-8 and 54-34.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster drinks from the Bledisloe Cup at Westpac Stadium.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster drinks from the Bledisloe Cup at Westpac Stadium.

"All I know is we have never had an easy game in Sydney," Foster said.

"We have had a couple of games, I guess in my time, where the score has blown out a couple of times and I have also been on the back of a couple of losses.

"That is all we need to focus on. They are building and they are pretty energetic about this game and we need to be as well."

The All Blacks coaches have scrutinised Australia's 2-1 series loss to Ireland in June closely.

Foster said Michael Cheika's side played with more ambition than the Irish and, with more luck, could have potentially won the series 3-0.

Those matches were of more value than monitoring the more recent form of Australia's premier players in Super Rugby, he said.

However, Foster conceded the Waratahs' attacking methods based around Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley could provide a key pointer.

"I think they will take some confidence about the way that the Waratahs finished the campaign and there is no doubt they played some pretty special rugby in patches in that last two or three weeks," Foster said.

All Blacks fans laud New Zealand's Aaron Smith in Sydney in 2017.
All Blacks fans laud New Zealand's Aaron Smith in Sydney in 2017.

"When you look at the key components with Beale, Folau and Foley you have clearly got some good combinations that they will work around."

New Zealand's preparations will continue in Christchurch on Friday when their players get game time in consecutive 40 minute hitouts against provincial selection teams from Canterbury and Otago.

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