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August 21, 2009

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Wallabies and All Blacks lock horns in key fixture

THIS season's Tri-Nations has only just begun but there is already a sense of desperation creeping into the Australian and New Zealand camps.

Both teams have lost their last two matches and know their chances of winning the title will be all over if they lose tomorrow's clash in Sydney.

The All Blacks responded to back-to-back losses in South Africa in time-honored fashion, rushing back injured flyhalf Dan Carter and dropping senior players Rodney So'oialo and Ma'a Nonu. The reaction from the Wallabies was also in keeping with their favorite traditions, recalling flanker Rocky Elsom from long-term injury and reshuffling their backline to accommodate teenage whiz-kid, fullback James O'Connor.

"It's a big game for us, there's no hiding from that," New Zealand's assistant coach Wayne Smith said. "In terms of the Tri-Nations one of us is going to be out."

The result of Saturday's match could have instant repercussion for the Australians, who were beaten by New Zealand in Auckland and then South Africa in Cape Town.

They will be playing their first match at home and have a game in hand on both their opponents but face the reality of having to win to stay alive both in the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup.

They have already lost captain Stirling Mortlock to injury and ditched backrower Wycliff Palu to make way for Elsom, who has not played a test for a year.

"We are satisfied that he is good to go," Australia coach Robbie Deans said.

"It is a big ask of him to make his comeback in a Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations test, but that's the reality of our schedule, and is the sort of challenge he thrives on."

Deans is in his second year in charge of the Wallabies after he left his New Zealand homeland when he was overlooked for the All Blacks job.


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