Preview: New Zealand v Australia
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The All Blacks are primed to make history while Australia did their best to shut down the hype as the world champions seek a record-breaking 18th consecutive Test win.
Despite a pressure-laden build-up, captain Kieran Read was in a relaxed and jovial mood ahead of Saturday's game at Auckland's Eden Park, which has been a fortress for the All Blacks.
"The boys are excited. We're up for this challenge. It's going to be a massive game, I'm really looking forward to it," said Read.
"Obviously, it hasn't been done in the history of tier-one nations. As a game against Australia, we've got to prepare like all the other games where we've been successful."
Victory on Saturday would break a 47-year-old record which was set by New Zealand in 1965-1969 and has been equalled twice, by South Africa in 1997-1998 and the All Blacks in 2013-2014.
The hosts have won their last 35 Tests at Eden Park, where Australia haven't tasted success for 30 years but the Wallabies do have a habit of snapping All Blacks winning streaks.
In 2010, they stopped a run of 15 All Blacks victories. They halted a 16-match winning streak in 2012 and two years later, a 12-12 draw in Sydney left the All Blacks stranded on 17.
But while the All Blacks named their strongest possible line-up, the Wallabies opted for an experimental team.
Coach Michael Cheika made four changes to their side that beat Argentina 33-21 two weeks ago, saying he wanted a "different feel" for the game as he looked to the future. The Wallabies this year have been way below the form that took them to the 2015 World Cup Final and for Cheika, it meant going back to the drawing board.
"We understand that instead of moaning and complaining about not having depth we've got to go out there and create," he said, adding that playing the All Blacks "will be excellent in giving us experience."
Most of Australia's current players weren't even born when the Wallabies last won in Auckland but Cheika was not interested in revisiting history.
"Every Test match is a big occasion. If we start thinking about those things and thinking what's not possible you'll come up with a negative answer," he said Friday after putting his side through their one training run in New Zealand.
"You'd be blind not to see that we haven't done well here for a fair while but if you don't have the dream or conception inside that you can go out there and do it then it's never going to happen."
Although the All Blacks are overwhelming favourites, Read said the All Blacks knew from past experience that they couldn't take the Wallabies lightly.
"We've learned that it isn't just another game. When you've got something on the line oppositions raise their game and we've got to certainly raise ours," he said.
"We know there's that little bit extra and that's extra for both teams. It's not just our record, it's the Australians' record to try and stop us from making it and that will put a bit of extra spice on it."
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Ben Smith will look to spark things from the back while Israel Dagg would want to continue the form he has found. Julian Savea has a lot to prove after some indifferent performances recently but centre Anton Lienert-Brown has his eye on once again proving why is unstoppable. The halfback pairing of Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara have clicked to terrorise defences but everything will rely on the platform set by their dynamic pack of forwards.
For Australia: A lot will rest on Israel Folau's shoulders to secure high balls and get his side over the advantage line with some good runs while Bernard Foley will need to marshal the troops from the flyhalf position. Henry Speight would have learned many new skills at Sevens and would do himself a massive favour by implementing it in the game. Lopeti Timani will have a shot at making a claim for the No.8 jersey with David Pocock starting on the bench.
Head to head: Ben Smith and Israel Folau are two dynamic runners and are both excellent under the high ball. The centre combinations will be an interesting tussle and should give an idea as to how the game will go. Australia's loose trio will certainly have their hands full against a strong All Blacks trio while the front row battle is always an intriguing one.
2016: New Zealand won 29-9, Wellington
2016: New Zealand won 42-8, Sydney
2015: New Zealand won 34-17, London (WC Final)
2015: New Zealand won 41-13, Auckland
2015: Australia won 19-27, Sydney
2014: New Zealand won 29-28, Brisbane
2014: New Zealand won 51-20, Auckland
2014: Drew 12-12, Sydney
2013: New Zealand won 41-33, Dunedin
2013: New Zealand won 27-16, Wellington
Prediction: Everyone watching this game will be focussed on one thing - the streak. New Zealand have been unstoppable and the easy money is on them to walk away with another comfortable victory and rewrite the history books. Australia would do well to keep the deficit below three scores. The All Blacks should bag a 25-point victory.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Ala'alatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 David Pocock, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
Date: Saturday, October 22
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (17.35 AEDT, 06.35 GMT)
Expected weather: Clear skies, a minimum of 9 with a maximum of 17 degrees and a 17 mph wind.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com