New Zealand still rate Australia's strength

(Rugby News Service) Wednesday 12 October 2011
New Zealand still  rate Australia's strength
The All Blacks feel Australia are as strong as ever despite stumble

AUCKLAND, 13 Oct. - The All Blacks believe the Wallabies are still a threat at RWC 2011, despite Australia's loss to Ireland in the pool stage.

"They're still the quality outfit that they've always been. They had one stumble but they're looking just as strong as they ever were," said number 8 Victor Vito.

As New Zealand prepare to take on their trans-Tasman rivals in Sunday's semi-final, they will do anything to stop Australia from becoming the first team to win a World Cup after losing a match in the pool phase.

"I hope we can do the business," said former Australian rugby league player turned New Zealand centre  Sonny Bill Williams.

"They're a tough side and I think they're coming into form at the right time, but I think we haven't played our best footy as well, so it's going to be a really good match."

The All Blacks have put this year's Tri Nations loss to Australia behind them, saying winning the Webb Ellis Cup is more of a priority than exacting revenge.

Learning from loss

"We take learnings from it, but it certainly isn't the only motivating factor. There are other things that are pretty obvious that are motivating us more," said scrum half Andy Ellis.

The rivalry between the two nations is no secret in the southern hemisphere, but at an All Blacks press conference on Wednesday the players were asked to describe it for the benefit of northern hemisphere observers.

"We love getting one over them. We're a smaller country than them so it makes it even sweeter when we do," said Ellis.

"It's cheeky, it's fun and both countries love getting the wood over each other," said veteran forward Brad Thorn.

Historically Eden Park has not been good to Australia. The Wallabies have beaten the All Blacks just four times there, the last win coming in 1986. But just as Australia refuse to see it as a hoodoo, New Zealand don't see it as an advantage.

"The history and what's gone before means nothing, it's knockout rugby so the winner takes all," said forward Sam Whitelock.

"As we prepare, we take a little bit of comfort knowing we're on our home patch. But it's a semi-final, both teams are going to be firing," said flanker Jerome Kaino.

RNS eg/rg