Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hopes to know by the end of this week whether he’ll be able to call on star flankers David Pocock and Sean McMahon to stop the All Blacks from creating history.
New Zealand are chasing a record 18th straight Test win – the most of any tier-one nation – at their fortress, Eden Park.
It’s a venue Australia have not won at since 1986, and a place the All Blacks have won 35 matches straight, dating back to 1994.
The Wallabies are not shying away from the enormity of the challenge, and in the absence of Australia’s first-choice No.8s rookie Lopeti Timani produced a monstrous display of aggressive tackling against Argentina.
But there’s little question their hopes would be boosted by the inclusion of Pocock and McMahon.
Pocock remains sidelined with a broken hand and is considered the less likely of the pair to be fit to take the field in a fortnight, while McMahon is making strong progress with a low-grade syndesmosis injury but is also fighting to clock to face the All Blacks.
“There’s a chance that both of them could be back,” Cheika said in London before flying out on Sunday night (Monday AEDT).
“We’ll have to wait until we get back home to see what both (of their situations).
“Towards the end of this week we’ll be clearer on (both).”
While rookie centre Samu Kerevi has declared no team is unbeatable, Cheika is in no doubt of the challenge his team faces.
The world champions have been exceptional throughout the Rugby Championship but put on a clinic in demolishing South Africa 57-15 – and Cheika was not remotely surprised.
“It’s been a pretty good performance from them every week,” Cheika said.
“We”ll start working out a few little bits and pieces but I think we’re a little more confident than we are in (our) game now.
“When you’re playing a team like them you’ve got to look at yourself and what you need to do to keep them straight.”
Despite the exodus of experience following the World Cup victory, which included champions Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, the All Blacks have maintained their five-star standard – and again Cheika says it is to be expected.
“I’m not surprised by it because they knew. They prepared,” said Cheika.
“They have the depth, people who have Test experience (so it was) a relatively seamless transition.”