1 Aug 2008

D-day for Deans' resurgent Wallabies

10:33 pm on 1 August 2008

Five straight wins have the Wallabies' confidence sky high, but a drought-breaking victory over the All Blacks at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday would confirm the Robbie Deans era has truly arrived - and the Kiwi coach knows it.

Deans orchestrated a first-up win over his homeland last Saturday in Sydney but faces the real acid test in his homecoming game when Australia will seek to defy history and put themselves in the box seat for the Tri-Nations title and Bledisloe Cup.

Asked on Friday if a win would be sweeter on New Zealand soil, Deans said: "It will just be good to see this group thrive. "We've worked hard at it … we've made some great strides, it would be good to get that confirmation that we have made progress tomorrow night."

The Wallabies face one of the most daunting tasks in world rugby, with Australia not having tasted victory in Auckland since 1986. Their recent away record is even more cause for concern - they have not beaten either of their Tri-Nations opponents away from home in 14 attempts.

But they sit on top of the Tri-Nations table following wins over South Africa in Perth then the All Blacks, with their two rivals only able to boast a single win each from their three outings.

The All Blacks are staring down the barrel of three straight losses for the first time since 1998.

Both coaches appeared to feeling the pinch today, with New Zealand's Graham Henry admitting he was feeling "stress" and Deans advising journalists keen to ask about his rival's woes to stick to questions about the Wallabies.

The former Crusaders boss's homecoming will include him coaching for the first time against his captain at the Super 14 side, Richie McCaw, with the champion flanker joining Australian skipper Stirling Mortlock in returning from injury for the match.

The All Blacks are expected to overhaul their tactics after claiming they were outmaneuvered by the Wallabies' superior adjustment to rugby's experimental laws.

"I suspect this weekend could be (a grind). It could be ugly but it will be intense and there will be drama," Deans said.