The wet weather descending on Auckland has added another level of difficulty to Australia’s bid to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup.
A host of historic pointers suggest the Wallabies will be up against it in the return Test at Eden Park on Saturday, despite the resounding nature of last week’s 21-point victory in Perth.
Australia have crashed and burned every time the trans-Tasman trophy has gone to a decider during New Zealand’s current reign, dating back to 1993.
The Wallabies record at Eden Park is barren since 1986 and the All Blacks can quietly point to an advantage with the appointment of South African referee Jaco Peyper, who has whistled in a number of sizeable New Zealand wins.
The arrival of rain is another issue for the men in gold.
In the professional era, New Zealand have reserved some of their best Bledisloe Cup performances for rain-hit Tests, most famously their 43-6 win at Wellington’s muddy Athletic Park in 1996.
A handful of more recent Eden Park encounters have also been dominated by the home pack in the wet and it’s likely the team with the superior forwards and sharpest kicking game will hold sway on Saturday.
Australian forwards coach Simon Raiwalui wouldn’t divulge how tactics might change if the weather prevents them from repeating the ball-in-hand approach that was so effective in Perth.
“We’re not going to change it drastically, we’re just going to play our game and work on the things that worked for us,” he said.
“Obviously it will be a little bit slippery but it’s two good teams and quality players.
We’ve got our game plan, we’ve worked on it all week and we’ll adjust accordingly if it’s wet.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was more forthright, putting the blowtorch on his subdued tight five to lift.
Veteran lock Sam Whitelock was singled out: “He’s the guy with 100 Tests, he’s the big boy of the pack so you expect those guys to lead, not the guy who hasn’t played too many Tests.”
Hansen said he hasn’t needed to verbally motivate his players as they know they’d let themselves down and put a 17-year Bledisloe Cup reign in jeopardy.
“The jersey has asked the question of them. Was last week’s performance good enough? No it wasn’t.
“The jersey demands better than that. They’re disappointed and you can’t hide from that fact.”