Bledisloe Cup: a matter of pride
Dead rubber or not, Australia have everything to play for against NZ.
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2008 14:30 GMT

Hong Kong provides a glamourous background to the All Blacks training [GALLO/GETTY]

Robbie Deans played for and helped coach New Zealand's famous All Blacks before crossing the Tasman to guide Australia's national rugby team.

There is no better person to judge what the first Bledisloe Cup match on foreign soil will mean to the players.

Deans arrived with the Wallabies in Hong Kong this week and went immediately into test match mode.

His assessment of the fourth match in a Bledisloe Cup series the All Blacks have already clinched 2-1: "It's not a dead rubber. Who said it was a dead rubber?"

Passion and pride

There's no such thing between the archrivals.

"There will be passion. There will be intensity. There is no love lost between these nations.

"And whenever you pull your nation's jersey on, you don't do it lightly," Deans said.

"Regardless of whether there is silverware up for grabs or not, there are things up for grabs that are far more valued."

The sentiment is echoed among the All Blacks.

"It's still an All Blacks-Wallabies battle ... The boys will be into it, excited and we definitely want a victory," lock Ali Williams said.

Robbie Deans calls the shots [GALLO/GETTY]
On form

Top-ranked New Zealand retained the Tri-Nations, which also features World Cup winner South Africa, and Bledisloe Cup titles with a 28-24 win over Australia at Brisbane on September 13.

In earlier matches in the series, the Wallabies won 34-19 in Sydney on July 26 and the All Blacks won 39-10 in Auckland the following week.

Both sides have adjusted their line-ups for the Hong Kong match.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry is giving winger Hosea Gear his debut and shifted star flyhalf Daniel Carter to inside centre to accommodate Stephen Donald at No. 10.

The All Blacks' most experienced back, fullback Mils Muliaina, withdrew from the match to spend time with his wife, who gave birth to a son on Tuesday.

His place in the starting line-up went to utility Isaia Toeava while new cap Cory Jane has been added to the reserves bench.

Australia changes

Deans made five changes to his starting line-up, mostly enforced by injuries.

Luke Burgess returns from injury to win back his starting role at scrumhalf from Sam Cordingley and Drew Mitchell was drafted in for injured winger Lote Tuqiri.

Richard Brown replaced injured No. 8 Wycliff Palu, backrower Dean Mumm comes onto the blindside flank and Mark Chisholm replaces James Horwill in the second row in other changes.

Inside centre Berrick Barnes returns to the bench after missing the last two tests, meaning skipper Stirling Mortlock will remain at No. 12 in a midfield combination with Ryan Cross.

The matchup on Saturday is also a milestone because it's the first time the two sides have met on foreign soil outside of the World Cup.

Australia won the only other match on neutral ground, beating the All Blacks 16-6 in the semi-finals en route to winning the 1991 World Cup in England.

Rodney So'oialo of the All Blacks gets to grips with the ball [GALLO/GETTY]
Carnival atmosphere

Hong Kong is known for its annual rugby sevens tournament, but rarely stages traditional 15s internationals.

Mitchell, who played in the Hong Kong Sevens, said he enjoys the "carnival" atmosphere the sevens event is known for, with audiences showing up in colourful costumes on the South Stand.

The New Zealanders, frequent winners in the Hong Kong Sevens, want to expand that local success into the 15-a-side format.

"Within the guys, the team, they're very excited.

"It's completely different from anything we've experienced as a national side," said Carter, one of the undisputed stars of the global game.

There will be no shortage of Australian and New Zealand expatriates in the stands in Hong Kong, which is home to some 50,000 Aussies and 3,000 Kiwis.

Hong Kong Rugby Football Union media consultant Sean Moore said organisers
have also sold 6,500 tour packages for the game to fans living in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Moore said the game at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium was about 300 tickets shy of sold out.

For both sides, the match is a prelude to European tours.

The All Blacks will be attempting a third "grand slam" of victories against Britain's four home unions.

Australia will play Italy, England, France and Wales on its end-of-season tour.


Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Hynes, Ryan Cross, Stirling Mortlock (captain), Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Al Baxter, Mark Chisholm, Nathan Sharpe, Dean Mumm, George Smith,  Richard Brown. Reserves: Adam Freier, Matt Dunning, Phil Waugh, David Pocock, Sam Cordingley, Berrick Barnes, Lachie Turner.

New Zealand: Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Daniel Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Rodney So'oialo. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Greg Somerville, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Corey Jane.

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