Thank heavens, the Tri-Nations is starting at last. We have A team playing A team, not A/B playing B/C. And this could be one of the greatest game of the year as the old play the new, the old buck against the young buck intent on defeating him.
They are both teams of exceptional players, the best teams in the world in conflict on Eden Park where the Wallabies have not won since 1986.
It is a great prospect, grabbing the whole of the rugby world's attention - and it could be so close.
The big, experienced All Black pack could get dominance of a sort in set pieces, though they were not much better than the Wallabies against the 'Springboks'. The scrums look much the same, although the All Blacks have big bad Brad back at lock and he certainly makes a difference in giving his loose forwards a chance to start on the balls of their feet.
The Wallabies are good at the line-outs but six of the seven All Blacks are good at line-outs. That phase could well go with the throw. The battle of the collision could be fierce and decisive. There you cannot discard the Wallaby skill and intent.
And then there is so much talent in the two backlines. Any team that can drop wings of the calibre of Cory Jane and Zac Guildford is a talented backline. Any backline that has Dan Carter as its playmaker is a wonderful backline. Against them there is the skill and unpredictability of Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia and Digby Ioane. They are such special players. The All Blacks missed seven tackles against the Springboks when their task was easy as the South Africans ran straight at them. Here we have Australians rediscovering the ancient art of trying to beat a man - making an art of avoiding the tackle.
Just the prospect of this match is exciting.
Despite the weight of history against them, the Wallabies are going into the match with zestful confidence. That is one of the great advantages of youth - unafraid, not intimidated by fear of defeat. For the older All Blacks there may well be fear of defeat, of letting down their nation.
Players to Watch: All 44 of them but especially the two flyhalves, Carter and Cooper, the four wings and Kurtley Beale. And then there is David Pocock. Will big Dan Vickerman get on and perform?
Head to Head: There are such obvious ones: Carter vs Cooper. Both of them make such huge contributions to the games they play in, and Carter seems to be back to his best. That could be so telling and don't be surprised if the magic moment comes from Carter.
Another obvious one: David Pocock, the rising star at the tackle against Richie McCaw, perhaps a waning star. For one thing it will be interesting to see how legal it all is.
The contests between the contrasting styles of two sets of wings could be fascinating. They will get the ball and you have the clever Wallabies against the more direct, strong All Blacks. It's hard to see Sitiveni Sivivatu coping with the happy wiles of Digby Ioane.
Piri Weepu, talented and clever schemer that he is, may find Will Genia a handful.
It is a lot to take in, starting with Wyatt Crockett up against Ben Alexander (who will yield the first penalty) to veteran Mils Muliaina against the skipping wonder of young Kurtley Beale.
We get to prediction time and have recent results to help us.
2010: Australia won 26-24 at Hong Kong Stadium
2010: New Zealand won 23-22 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2010: New Zealand won 20-10 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2010: New Zealand won 49-28 at Colonial Stadium, Melbourne
2009: New Zealand won 32-19 at Olympic Stadium, Tokyo
2009: New Zealand won 33-6 at Westpac Trust, Wellington H
2009: New Zealand won 19-18 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2009: New Zealand won 22-16 at Eden Park, Auckland
2008: New Zealand won 19-14 at Hong Kong Stadium
2008: New Zealand won 28-24 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2008: New Zealand won 39-10 at Eden Park, Auckland
2008: Australia won 34-19 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2007: New Zealand won 26-12 at Eden Park, Auckland
2007: Australia won 20-15 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
2006: New Zealand won 34-27 at Eden Park, Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 13-9 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2006: New Zealand won 32-12 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
There is no doubt that the burden of history is on the side of the All Blacks. The Wallabies won in Wellington in 2000 and in Auckland in 1986. It's not impossible, just highly unlikely if we believe history. But history is being made all over the world every day. Why not at Eden Park in Auckland?
Put head to work and it's a hard decision.
Our prediction: The All Blacks by about five points.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Anthony Fainga'a, 22 Lachie Turner.
Date: Saturday, 6 August 2011
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Expected weather conditions: It's midwinter in wet New Zealand but it seems that a dry Friday will be followed by a dry Saturday - partly cloudy with a high of 16°C, dropping to 12°C. Good for good rugby.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
By Paul Dobson
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