All Black stars on the wane, says Kefu - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

All Black stars on the wane, says Kefu

By Jim Morton 03/08/2011 06:47:04 PM Comments (0)

Toutai Kefu has rated New Zealand vulnerable and a fading force to further fuel All Black angst over Australian disrespect.

Spicing up Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup litmus test at Eden Park, the former Wallabies enforcer felt the All Blacks had once again peaked well before the World Cup with "stars on the wane".

In contrast, he felt Robbie Deans' team was hitting their straps at the perfect time.

Kefu's comments come as New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen on Wednesday grumbled that Australia's players lacked respect for the world No.1-ranked team.

On top of Quade Cooper's "celebratory" in-goal shove of Richie McCaw in Hong Kong last year and Digby Ioane's post-try dance in Queensland's Super Rugby final triumph over the Crusaders, Deans' men have been branded cocky upstarts across the ditch.

"The Australians aren't in awe of us, they probably don't even respect us," Hansen said. "You've only got to read what they've got to say."

Fullback Kurtley Beale unwittingly gave the All Blacks extra artillery this week when he said the confident Wallabies backline could "tear any team apart" when on song.

But stalwart hooker Stephen Moore stressed they had utmost respect for the Tri Nations champions.

"They are the No.1 team in the world, and we are playing them in their backyard, the way we have prepared would indicate our respect for them," he said before flying to Auckland on Wednesday night.

However Kefu's forthright view will only cut deeper under the New Zealand skins.

The 60-Test back-rower believes senior players like captain McCaw are past their best and they will succumb to the pressure of hosting the World Cup and ending a 24-year drought.

"At first I didn't think it would be a problem but some of the key players, their stars, are starting to wane a bit," the 1999 World Cup hero told AAP.

"The thing with them is they have been there done that, they've been consistent for so long.

"If there's a time for us to challenge for the mantle I think this year is the time."

Kefu not only rates the Wallabies highly but also England, whose forward strength could scare Australia in a likely October 15 semi-final match-up.

Former All Black Grant Batty also likes the look of the Wallabies and agrees McCaw's side have already peaked but they could still have the class to make 2011 a year to remember.

"There probably isn't a lot of improvement left in New Zealand but they're not yet half-way down the slope," the Queensland-based 1970s Test winger said. "They're still a very good team."

Saturday's Test has major World Cup ramifications for both teams as the Wallabies have not won in Auckland in 25 years, while the All Blacks are desperate to protect the fortress-like aura of their bastion.

New Zealand's last loss at Eden Park came in 1994 against France.

"Wanting it to stay tight and a fortress, for want of a better term, is pretty important," Hansen said. "That's where they're going to play the World Cup final and we want to be in it."

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