The All Blacks are making no secret of intentions to exploit the Wallabies’ inexperience at outside centre in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney.
In the absence of injured regulars Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani, the Wallabies don’t have a specialist option for a position which poses many challenges in defence.
Utility Reece Hodge is expected to fill the Wallabies No.13 spot with fullback Israel Folau another option.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster also threw up utility Matt Toomua’s name on Tuesday ahead of the Wallabies team announcement on Thursday.
“We’re pretty interested who turns up and they’ve got some good options there, but certainly it’s not the easiest thing to get right defending at 13,” Foster said.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge whether it’s Hodge or Toomua or whichever way they go, it’s going to be a slightly new combination.
“I’m sure they will be working hard to make sure that they learn pretty quickly but I guess we’re going to have to ask some questions aren’t we?”
The All Blacks also have a midfield vacancy to fill in the absence of inside centre Sonny Bill Williams but they can call on ultra-reliable Ryan Crotty.
Like Australia, they are considering playing backs in different positions to their Super Rugby spots, particularly winger Rieko Ioane, who played inside centre for the Blues and fullback Jordie Barrett, an outside centre for the Hurricanes.
Foster said the All Blacks always felt some nervousness going into their first Bledisloe and Rugby Championship test of the year.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for the Wallabies we know how much this trophy means to both countries,” he said.
He thought the Wallabies would take confidence out of their June series against Six Nations champions Ireland.
“They certainly looked like they’d taken some steps forward in terms of their understanding of what they are doing, so I’m assuming that’s their plan to keep growing and it’s got to be ours,’ Foster said.
“We did some nice things in June (against France) and we had some moments that weren’t quite so nice though I thought we finished strong.
“But it seems in the distant past to be honest and now we’re into a championship that’s pretty special for us, playing for a trophy that’s pretty special.
“We know the bar is going to have to go up and up. It will from both teams.”