The old ground, the House of Pain, Carrisbrooke, is gone, replaced by a covered stadium. But the polar conditions will shock the Australians, who have been experiencing soaring, early summer temperatures, which have bought bush fires to the east coast.
Though the Australians are beginning to find form, they come up against an All Blacks side that is in top form—and battle-hardened, after defeating South Africa to take the Rugby Championship.
The Test is the final of three Bledisloe Cup games—the first two were the RC games, both won by the All Blacks.
As far as the RC and the Bledisloe Cup results go, the game has no impact—NZ has won both. The stand-alone, final Test is no dead rubber, though.
Confidence will be tested
Because of the long trans-Tasman history, this game will decide which team is No.1—in the sense that it is almost a separate competition.
The all-conquering All Blacks are the outright favourite—so a loss would unsettle them ahead of the upcoming northern tour.
Australian fans are warming to coach Ewen McKenzie, who took charge at the start of the RC, when former coach Robbie Deans was sacked following a series loss to the British and Irish Lions.
A big loss to the All Blacks—which is possible—would shake that fan support, and undermine player confidence ahead of the Wallabies northern tour.
By contrast, a loss may have little impact on All Black confidence. But it would be a shattering, emotional experience for the coach and the players, because of the records they will be defending.
The All Blacks haven’t lost at home since 2009—and they have topped the IRB ranking for almost four years.
They have stayed at the top by managing all aspects of their operation and continually improving.
Still, all eras come to an end—though many people think this All Black era is just beginning.
Many NZ fans were pessimistic about coach Steve Hansen, who was promoted to head coach in 2011. But the Hansen All Blacks have won over 90 per cent of their games, scoring an average of four tries a game.
It has been a week of good news for NZ rugby. For instance:
They won the first sevens tournament of the year, held on the Australian Gold Coast last weekend, beating Australia in the Final.
Star winger Cory Jane returns to the All Black squad after a prolonged injury break.
Code-crossing star Sonny Bill Williams said he will leave rugby league to play for the NZ, Super 15 side, the Chiefs in 2015, making himself available for the world cup.
Whereas, the Wallabies appear to have lost Super 15 winger Henry Speight because of eligibility issues. Speight’s side, the ACT Brumbies, have lost coach Jake White, who quit recently with two years left on his contract.
But McKenzie was a Wallabies prop when Australia dominated world rugby, so he knows the joy of beating NZ.
He is an astute coach, with a belief in the Australian running style, so he will have an exciting game plan. Whether his players can execute it is another matter.
Peter Lalanabaravi is a rugby writer with over 30 years experience.