August 17, 2012 Josh Rakic, Toby Robson
ALL BLACKS coach Steve Hansen has laughed off suggestions his side will be unnerved by a hostile Sydney crowd, likening playing at ANZ Stadium to a home game for the World Cup champions.
The side touched down at Sydney International last night and Hansen didn't waste the opportunity to fire the first salvo at Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and the Sydney crowd.
''I don't know if it will be that hostile,'' Hansen said of the crowd, which will be far from capacity. ''There's a lot of Kiwis living over here now … and Robbie's picking half of them already,'' he added with a grin. ''There are plenty of Kiwis in Sydney so we like coming here - it's a good place.''
Hansen, who has a long history of rivalry with Deans, had plenty of reasons to be cheeky given he brings with him the world's best side with the addition of star No. 10 Dan Carter and of course that man, Sonny Bill Williams.
Williams was reluctant to talk to the waiting media but Carter, who missed last year's World Cup victory through injury, was only too happy to front the press. Back in Australia and playing for the only trophy that holds a candle to the World Cup, the man regarded as the world's best No. 10 couldn't wipe the smile from his face.
''It was pretty frustrating what happened last year and obviously I'm pretty keen to make the most of this opportunity,'' a jovial Carter said. ''And to be over here in Sydney and playing against a strong Wallabies side is a great challenge.''
And as for having giants Williams and Ma'a Nonu outside of him together for the first time in the No. 12 and 13 jerseys?
''It's not bad looking outside and seeing the likes of Sonny Bill and Ma'a, a couple of absolutely huge human beings,'' Carter said with a grin. ''Hopefully we'll get some front football and be able to use them going forward.''
And while the visitors are outright favourites for the match, captain Richie McCaw is expecting a different Wallabies side to the one embarrassed in New Zealand last year.
''I think they'll be tougher,'' McCaw said. ''From our point of view, we haven't played for a while together. We're going to be in for a good battle. You've only got to think back to the game in Brisbane last year where it was a tough old day at the office. We got our own stuff sorted and if we can do that [again] we'll give ourselves a shot.''
The All Blacks will hold their only training session at ANZ Stadium this morning at the captain's run.
Hansen also lobbed a well-timed World Cup reminder towards old mate Deans yesterday.
The Wallabies coaching staff have been at pains to laud the improvements in forward play this year after a 3-0 series win over Wales.
Deans, scrum coach Andrew Blades, and forwards coach Tony McGahan have made a concerted effort to tell everyone their pack had developed a new ruthlessness. Blades recently said the Wallabies had been working hard on the scrum, believing they had been unfairly punished because of a perception their pack is poor.
''It's an interesting statement isn't it,'' Hansen said after naming his inaugural Rugby Championship side. ''It's not something we usually say. It's probably the difference between Australia and us, we don't talk ourselves up much. Actions speak louder than words.''