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Preview: Australia v NewZealand

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Oct 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 20.00 (Q'land time), 23.00 (NZT)

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 145, Australia 41, New Zealand 99, Draws 5

LAST TIME: August 25, 2012 (Auckland) – Australia 0-22 New Zealand

WALKING WOUNDED: Tighthead prop Ben Alexander is the latest casualty after succumbing to a wrist injury, while reserve hooker Saia Fainga'a broke his hand at training on Tuesday. James Slipper will now start at tighthead prop, with Sekope Kepu set to return from a knee injury suffered in Bledisloe I in August. Reds rake James Hanson will make his Test debut off the bench for Fainga'a. Winger Digby Ioane has been ruled out with a knee injury while No.8 Radike Samo has been rested. Drew Mitchell returns from an ankle injury via the bench. Regular starters James Horwill, David Pocock, James O'Connor, Will Genia and Quade Cooper all remain sidelined. New Zealand by comparison are able to retain all of their front liners from the Championship.

FORM: Bedevilled by injuries throughout their international campaign it was no surprise that continued this week. That Australia have still managed to finish second in the Rugby Championship speaks volumes for the tenacity of their side, a quality exhibited in their close-run win to beat Argentina, away, in their last game. Significantly, the loss of key players, all mentioned in the walking wounded above, has detracted from Australia's attacking quality.
New Zealand, by comparison, have been much better off, and able to cover for injuries when they have occurred. The form has been consistent with the latent desire in the side never better demonstrated than in the second half performance against South Africa to end the Championship unbeaten.

Australia:
V Argentina (a) Won 25-19
V South Africa (a) Lost 8-31
V Argentina (h) Won 23-19
V South Africa (h) Won 26-19
V New Zealand (a) Lost 0-22

New Zealand:
V South Africa (a) Won 32-16
V Argentina (a) Won 54-15
V South Africa (h) Won 21-11
V Argentina (h) Won 21-5
V Australia (h) Won 22-0

WHO'S HOT: Mike Harris took over the goal-kicking duties for Australia in Rosario and contributed 20 points which will mean, kicking on his adopted home ground, that he will be a danger anywhere in the New Zealand half. However, he is out of position at fullback and will be tested by New Zealand's tactical plan. Scott Higginbotham returns to fray after coming off the bench eight minutes into the Argentine game and making a significant impression. Now slotted in at first five-eighths Kurtley Beale will have much more say in the Australian approach and always carries the title of 'threat' with him.

Captain Richie McCaw continues to inspire and will be keen to gain a rare win, in recent seasons at least, at Suncorp Stadium. Wings Cory Jane and Hosea Gear were each outstanding in South Africa, and Gear will have another chance to stamp a more permanent claim on his wing. Halfback Aaron Smith won't have Genia to content with and will have another chance to demonstrate his progress. Keven Mealamu achieves his milestone of 100 caps and offers plenty of solidity up front.

WE THINK: Australia will be keen to make an impression and show that while under-rated they are worthy of greater respect, however, given the mood of the All Blacks it is hard to see any sympathy being extended to the home team. The only impediment to a solid All Blacks victory would be complacency and that doesn't seem to have been on the New Zealand menu since the second Test against Ireland. We pick the All Blacks by 12 or more.

TEAMS:
Australia:
1. Benn Robinson, 2. Tatafu Polota Nau, 3. James Slipper, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 6. Scott Higginbotham, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Wycliff Palu, 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Kurtley Beale, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Pat McCabe, 13. Ben Tapuai, 14. Nick Cummins, 15. Mike Harris

Reserves: 16. James Hanson, 17. Sekope Kepu, 18. Kane Douglas, 19. Dave Dennis, 20. Liam Gill, 21. Brett Sheehan, 22. Drew Mitchell

New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Dan Carter, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Cory Jane, 15. Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16. Andrew Hore, 17. Owen Franks, 18. Luke Romano, 19. Victor Vito, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Aaron Cruden, 22. Ben Smith

REFEREE: Craig Joubert