Blacks wary of Wallaby jumpers

The All Blacks are concerned about the number of line-out jumpers selected by John Connolly for the first Bledisloe Cup encounter.

The Wallabies coach has kept the line-out options of Daniel Vickerman, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom and Mark Chisholm in his unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s Test in Christchurch. George Smith is another option that may be used at the back, and the Wallabies will lose little height when Scott Fava comes off the bench in the second half.

The All Blacks boast two quality jumpers in Chris Jack and newcomer Jason Eaton, and there is the option of one of Richie McCaw, Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo at the back.

The difference between the two teams is in the experience of these players as frontline line-out winners. Vickerman and Elsom are regularly employed for their franchise the Waratahs, as is Chisholm for the Brumbies. Having represented Australia 44 times, Sharpe is vastly experienced at this level and may only be rivaled by Chris Jack in this respect.

All Blacks forward coach Steve Hansen confirmed yesterday that the Aussie line-out will be a factor.

“The set pieces are obviously going to be an area of the Test where there will be a huge focus,” Hansen told Greg Growden on rugbyheaven.com. “They [Australia] probably feel they have an edge at line-out time, and we may have a small edge at scrum-time … but we’ll see what happens.”

Hansen said the 2006 Wallabies could easily be compared with the All Blacks of several years ago.

“Australia are very similar to us, in having three coaches coming back from the UK, as we did in 2004 [when Hansen, Wayne Smith and Graham Henry returned to New Zealand]. With us, there was then a huge emphasis on the set pieces, and the physicality of the game. I’m sure that’s what Australia are looking to do too right now.”

The Springboks are another side who depend on their line-outs as a major source of possession, but with Bakkies Botha in doubt for the Australasian tour and Schalk Burger out until next year, they too may have to seek alterior methods of combatting the Wallabies.