By RICHARD KNOWLER - The Press
Being forced to can their traditional "captain's run" barely raised a ripple of concern among the All Blacks ahead of tonight's Bledisloe Cup test.
Usually the All Blacks have a relaxed session, something that involves little more than a light kick around and some lineouts, on the eve of their internationals, but there was to be no such visit to Melbourne's Etihad Stadium yesterday.
While the Wallabies were able to stage their run at the ground, the New Zealanders had to scout around for a vacant park because Etihad was being prepared for an AFL encounter between Essendon and St Kilda.
Unlike the AFL players who have kicked up a storm this week over the state of the turf at Etihad, a brouhaha that has also sucked AFL administrators and politicians into the debate, the All Blacks and Wallabies camps refused to have a whinge.
Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom reckoned it was superior to what he had encountered at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium which, like Etihad, has a roof which restricts grass growth.
"It looks a little better than Millennium Stadium normally does ... it is pretty well just mud painted green sometimes when we get up there."
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw also shunted aside speculation that got so hysterical at one point that it was suggested that the test could be called off.
"I think it has been a lot of talk about not much. It is obviously not the best I have played on but it is going to be fine," he said.
"There are grounds like that around and I think it will be as good as gold."
Critics of the stadium have noted the ground does not receive enough sun and this week heat lamps were fixed about the grass to encourage growth.
The turf is likely to be ripped up at scrum time, although McCaw said he had played in much worse during his career.
"I have played in mud up to the ankles before, so you just get on with it too, don't you? I am not too worried."