Sir Graham Henry says the All Blacks are better and Wallabies weaker than when his side dominated their 2011 World Cup semi-final.
Rugby knight Sir Graham Henry has highlighted the magnitude of the Wallabies task to restore pride with a drawn Bledisloe series – rating the current All Blacks a far better unit than his World Cup winners.
Henry not only sees Steve Hansen’s outfit as more advanced than his 2011 champions, the former New Zealand coach assessed Ewen McKenzie’s Australian side as weaker than the one thumped 20-6 in a one-sided Cup semi-final.
Injuries to forward leaders Stephen Moore and David Pocock, and the absence of game-breaking halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper, has drained the Wallabies of strength and smarts, according to Henry.
“In 2011 they were a bit stronger than they are now,” he said in Brisbane on Friday, a day before the Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane.
“Genia and Cooper are quality halves and they were quality halves then and then Stephen Moore and Pocock aren’t playing and when those guys get back on the deck that’s going to strengthen the know-how and experience of that team.”
Henry wasn’t completely ruling out an Australian upset, especially with the Wallabies galvanised by the turmoil surrounding them, but highly doubted they were good enough to match it with their arch-rivals.
New Zealand haven’t lost two straight Tests since their last two games before the 2011 tournament, losing only two of 44 in the three years since.
Henry was “hugely pleased” to see Hansen and skipper Richie McCaw take the All Blacks to another level again, saying they were definitely a better-equipped and more-rounded outfit now.
“For sure,” he said. “They are a better side now, they have better depth.
“We were struggling to find quality players in some positions, so there’s more depth, and Steve’s done a great job.
“There’s a lot of continuity of people who keep getting better and keep evolving.”
Both Henry and McKenzie on Friday admitted Australia should have won the opening Bledisloe Test this year.
An inability to seize the clutch moments saw them settle for a 12-12 draw, while a lack of physicality and a series of turnovers led to an embarrassing 51-20 thrashing a week later.
“The Eden Park hiccup will drive them,” Henry said. “They will galvanise from that result if they have character.”
McKenzie, under immense pressure, assured his team will show it at their happiest hunting ground to ensure an unbeaten home record this season and split the series.
The coach, who has recalled Cooper on the bench, is also under fire from across the Tasman with former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall, writing in the NZ Herald column, saying Genia’s continued omission made no sense.