NZ brace for another Brisbane nailbiter

A settled Wallabies backline and a history of close Brisbane encounters has New Zealand on their toes ahead of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup finale.

Despite already wrapping up the series in a last-gasp Dunedin comeback, the world champions insist they won’t clock off against the improved Australians.

Australia fielded the same starting side for the first time under coach Michael Cheika’s in their last-start defeat of Argentina, with Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley pulling the strings in attack.

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster admitted the continuity of a Foley-Beale backline had enhanced the Wallabies’ capabilities.

“Yeah it’s probably the first time for a few years that they have been settled isn’t it, and they’re probably reaping some rewards out of that,” he said.

“(In Dunedin) they showed that they like to be able to run at you and manipulate and are capable of doing that if we let them.”

New Zealand ran riot in the opening Bledisloe to register a record 54 points against Australia, only to come within minutes of a rare home loss a week later.

Veteran Sam Whitelock was not surprised by the Wallabies’ turnaround and, ahead of the first Suncorp Stadium Bledisloe clash since 2014, is bracing for another physical encounter.

Since 1996 they have played six times in Brisbane – New Zealand winning four, drawing one and losing the other.

But the All Blacks’ biggest winning margin in that time has been just seven points.

“There’s definitely been some really tough games; I think back to 2011 (a 25-20 Wallabies win) was pretty physical for myself being new to the side and it sticks in my memory,” Whitelock said.

In 2012 the All Blacks were kept scoreless for the first time that year in an 18-all draw.

And an injury time try in 2014 handed New Zealand a 29-28 win in what was Australian coach Ewen McKenzie’s final game in charge.

New Zealand will continue to monitor the health of fly-half Beauden Barrett, who Foster said was still suffering from headaches and dizziness following a head knock against South Africa.

He has still been training with the side though and has not been ruled out, despite rookie playmaker Richie Mo’unga waiting in the wings to debut.

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