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Spotlight on referee as All Blacks, Wallabies clash

22 August 2014, 11:40

Auckland - The All Blacks and Wallabies sought pre-match talks with referee Romain Poite on Friday as they try to avoid giving away penalties in their highly anticipated return Rugby Championship Test.

With both sides smarting from last week's 12-12 draw in Sydney, New Zealand's Steve Hansen and Australia's Ewen McKenzie were keen to minimise any uncertainty in Auckland.

All Blacks coach Hansen has already claimed an apology from last week's whistleblower, South African Jaco Peyper, for a series of refereeing blunders including one yellow card.

"I've seen Steve's interpretation of what the referee said so if there's talk about free kicks at scrum time there were only three free kicks against the All Blacks but there were still 14 penalties" against them in the game, McKenzie said.

"It depends on which bit you want to look at. So we'll talk about the scrums."

McKenzie arguably has more to fear from Poite, who is seen to favour the dominant pack and was severe on the Wallabies in last year's deciding British and Irish Lions Test.

The All Blacks, who fell one short of a record 18th Test win last week, have played five internationals with the Frenchman in charge and never lost.

The Australian coach said he would be talking to Poite and last week's referee Peyper, who is also in Auckland for the Saturday's Test.

He said the Wallabies were also unhappy with some of Peyper's decisions in a rain-soaked Sydney, but added "teams have to look at themselves over time rather than look at one game".

It felt like a loss

And he warned that Australia would not be cowed by their record at Eden Park, the All Blacks' spiritual home, where they have not won a game since 1986.

"They were going for a world record last week and didn't get there," McKenzie said.

"We know what they're capable of. They're a very consistent side and have been the most consistent team for 100 years, we know that. It doesn't mean they win every game."

Hansen said he would also try to clarify points of the law with Poite as the All Blacks seek to re-establish supremacy and lock up the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup for the 13th year in a row.

Captain Richie McCaw said the home side were hoping to step up a gear after last week's game, which they were lucky to escape with a draw.

"It felt like a loss after the game," McCaw said. "We want to make sure we come out and do better this week."

The Wallabies will field an unchanged side while the All Blacks have changed three for a Test which is forecast to be played in dry weather and hard ground.

Injured centre Ma'a Nonu has been replaced by the less aggressive Ryan Crotty, in his first Test start, partnering Conrad Smith who was absent last week attending the birth of his son.

Liam Messam comes in for the injured Jerome Kaino in the forwards.

Although the Australians have not won at Eden Park since before most of the current players were born, captain Michael Hooper said not having experienced the fortress was a good thing.

"We're thinking about the improvements we can make on the field rather than the whole picture going around it," he said.

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