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Former All Black expects tight battle

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Aug 2012     Getty Images

A team of 10 former Wallabies led by George Gregan struck first blood on Friday, defeating Andy Hayden's All Blacks 241-229 stableford points in the inaugural Rugby Classics Golf Day at Oatlands Golf Club.

And Marshall, who was part of the losing Kiwi contingent, is expecting another tight tussle at ANZ Stadium.

"I think it's going to be a closer game than many people expect, particularly New Zealanders," Marshall warned on Friday.

"I don't mean to say that arrogantly but the All Blacks have been ticking along quite nicely.

"The Wallabies struggled up front against the Welsh and the All Blacks will look to exploit that.

"Whether or not they've [Wallabies] done enough in that department, they've had a month with the poor performances of the franchise teams so they've had a lot time together to try and get those little kinks ironed out.

"If they can get the parody up front they've got the potency in the back... I think it'll be closer but don't think they've closed the gap enough in terms of personnel, and injuries haven't helped."

Former Wallabies flyhalf Elton Flatley said Robbie Deans' side simply must win on Saturday to have any chance of ending their 10-year Bledisloe Cup drought.

The two sides will meet again at Auckland's Eden Park in seven days, with the third and final Bledisloe Test scheduled for Brisbane on 20 October.

"It's really crucial, playing NZ anywhere is hard but playing them over in New Zealand is really hard and we haven't won over there a lot so we've got to make sure we win the first home game and put us on the front foot," Flatley said.

But Flatley said coach Robbie Deans may rue his controversial decision to leave Quade Cooper out of the squad and hand Berrick Barnes first crack at starting flyhalf.

"I'm not around the inner circle but he's obviously coming back from an injury," Flatley said of Cooper.

"Berrick (Barnes) didn't have a great Super Rugby season, but to his credit he played really well in those Wales Tests.

"But Quade will always be around the picture, I think he's got that x-factor and he needs to be in the Wallabies team."

Asked if Cooper is the Wallabies' best flyhalf option, Flatley replied: "I think obviously Quade didn't have a great World Cup and he'd even admit that, but he's still a pretty young guy.

"He's still got some development in his game and controlling games and even sometimes underplaying his hand.

"When he came back for the Reds he played really well by doing all the things he's really good at but even by underplaying it a little bit.

"So long term I think we'll see him as the Australian No.10."