All Blacks concerned fast-starting Wallabies have become fast learners
Rupert Guinness
September 9, 2010

THE All Blacks insist they won't be reading too much into the Wallabies' penchant for squandering early and large leads during their most recent Tests against the Springboks.

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith is well aware how fast starts can swing against a side, citing the 2000 Bledisloe Cup clash against the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium. Smith, then the All Blacks head coach, watched New Zealand's 24-0 lead after eight minutes evaporate to 24-24 at half-time. The All Blacks eventually rallied to win what has since been billed the ''greatest game of rugby ever'' 39-35, before a crowd of 110,000 at Homebush Bay.

''We see it with ourselves,'' Smith said. ''It's hard doing both [attack and defence] at the same time unless you concentrate on them. You see that often in a game where you have an all-out attack, and all of a sudden the other team starts attacking, and your defence hasn't got the same purpose as your attack.

''The key is to link your attack and defence with the same principles. That's [about] refocusing on the other side of the game. That's a challenge for coaches.''

Although the All Blacks have won nine consecutive Tests against the Wallabies, Smith noted that, ''A lot of [wins] have been pulled out of the fire.''

''[We've been] down at half-time, then we've had to fight back,'' he said. ''They would have taken a lot out of [last week's win in Bloemfontein], I guess. They seem to have a good spirit. Certainly in terms of their attack, they offer a much tougher proposition for our defence than any other challenge we have had this year. They are playing a lot better in attack now than they did the last couple of times we have played them.

''[The Wallabies are] undoubtedly a better team than they were earlier in the Tri Nations. You can't win at altitude against a desperate Boks team without having grown yourself.''

Quade Cooper missed the Wallabies' previous encounters against the All Blacks this season through suspension, and Smith was wary of the impact the Australian five-eighth could have on Saturday night's Tri Nations finale.

''He certainly changes the picture, there is no doubt about that,'' he said. ''He and [halfback Will] Genia have a great partnership going there. But I think everyone in attack has played pretty well for them, and they have a pattern they seem to have become used to. I would say they provide quite a few threats right across the track. It's not just Cooper.''