Wallabies forwards stepping up: All Blacks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies forwards stepping up: All Blacks

Robert Lowe 01/08/2011 04:48:44 PM Comments (0)

The spotlight might be on the Wallabies' slick backline, but the All Blacks have plenty of respect for the battle up front in Saturday's Tri-Nations rugby Test in Auckland.

Sparked by halves Quade Cooper and Will Genia, the Australian backs demonstrated their potency in a 39-20 win over South Africa in the tournament opener in Sydney.

New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith said on Monday there was no doubting the amount of talent the Wallabies had out wide.

But he also pointed to a growing threat from the Wallabies' once maligned forwards.

"They have also developed, under the iron curtain, in the background, a pretty good pack," he said.

"Their front row played pretty well. They've stemmed the tide there a wee bit and their lineout is always good. They played with real vigour, I thought, against South Africa."

The All Blacks are coming off their own 40-7 victory over the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday night and their line-up to face the Wallabies in the year's first Bledisloe Cup test will be named on Thursday morning.

Smith said the four forwards still to get game time after being rested against Fiji and South Africa because of long Super rugby campaigns - Crusaders Kieran Read, Brad Thorn and Owen Franks, and Blues skipper Keven Mealamu - would see action at Eden Park.

"They are recharged and champing at the bit to have a crack, so they'll get an opportunity," Smith said.

"How much opportunity and whether they start or come off the bench, I can't tell at you this point, but they will certainly have an opportunity within the match."

He said winger Hosea Gear, who also missed the previous two Tests as he continued his recovery from a hamstring injury, was fit and available again.

There had been thoughts of having Gear get some provincial rugby with Wellington under his belt first, "but we think he's one of those players who is ready to go".

Gear is involved in one of the biggest battles for spots in the World Cup squad, with the All Blacks having particular depth in the wings.

Over the past fortnight, Corey Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith and Zac Guildford - the first three originally named as injury cover for the Tri-Nations - have impressed when given the chance.

"All he can do is put his form on the track," Smith said of the challenge facing Gear.

"He can't do any more and you have to trust that that's enough for the selectors to pick you."

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