Big guns firing ahead of Tri-Nations opener
With the first match of the 2010 Tri-Nations less than two weeks away, all eyes will be on whether the All Blacks will be able to regain their title after losing it to South Africa last year.
It was the World Champions’ first Tri-Nations title since 2004 and ended a run of four consecutive wins for the All Blacks.
Both teams have been in dominant form in recent months, New Zealand demolishing an ill-disciplined Irish side while South Africa scored over 50 points against Italy and 40 against France.
Morne Steyn in particular has been in sublime form for the Springboks, scoring 28 points in his last outing.
Daniel Carter, who recently became only the fourth player in Rugby Union history to amass over 1,000 points in his career, has also been shining for the All-Blacks.
Despite less-than-convincing performances against England and Ireland, 2001 Champions Australia must not be written off.
Under coach Robbie Deans and captain Rocky Elsom, the Wallabies, whose tight-five forward have come under immense scrutiny in recent years, will be looking for a vast improvement on their recent record.
Elsom has returned completely revitalised since a brief sabbatical playing in the Magners League for Leinster.
Deans has been under immense pressure from an expectant Australian media, but was this week given full backing from the Australian board, suggesting he is the man to lead them to Tri-nations glory.
Despite a vote of confidence, Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has been linked with Deans’ job should their current Tri-nations campaign prove unsuccessful.
Deans will however, be buoyed by news of the expected returns-to-action of prop Benn Robinson and hooker Stephen Moore, who suffered fractured arms and broken jaws respectively.
The victory in the first test against England hid the frailties of the Wallabies’ front eight, who on that occasion conceded two penalty tries.
This year’s tournament is likely to be the penultimate instalment of the Tri-nations before Argentina are introduced for the 2011 campaign.