Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes has fired the first psychological

shot to trigger another week of inevitable mind games before Sunday

night’s Rugby World Cup semi-final showstopper against the All Blacks in


Not even more injury concerns for both camps could remove the spectre of Australia’s well-documented, 25-year, Eden Park hoodoo.


the straight-shooting Barnes needed just nine words to remind edgy New

Zealanders that the All Blacks had demons of their own to bury before

they could start thinking about lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for the first

time in 24 years.

“They’re worried about us come World Cup time too,” Barnes said.


have never lost to New Zealand at the quadrennial tournament and

famously sent the All Blacks packing with semi-final muggings in 1991

and 2003.

“There’s Aussie hoodoos left, right and centre here and 80 minutes at Eden Park come next Sunday,” Barnes said.


long-time sparring partners Robbie Deans and Graham Henry in the two

coaches’ boxes only adds to the spice of the occasion.

Both will

be desperate for their teams to advance after being in the All Blacks’

corner for New Zealand’s premature exits from the past two tournaments.


presided over the All Blacks’ worst campaign ever in 2007 while

countryman Deans was assistant to John Mitchell when Stirling Mortlock’s

long-range intercept try inspired Australia to their semi-final upset

in `03.

Now Deans is plotting New Zealand’s demise and insists

the Wallabies’ quarter-of-a-century drought at the All Blacks’ Auckland

fortress counts for nothing.

“Well, it’s the first occasion we’ve played them in a semi-final of a World Cup at Eden Park, so there’s no history,” he said.


hugely excited. It’s fantastic. We know each other well as teams.

There’s a huge amount of history; there’s no more history than between

the Wallabies and the All Blacks – and there’s a lot of history at World

Cup time as well.”
In what should please the Australians, South

African referee Craig Joubert, rewarded for his work in charge of the

free-flowing Wales-Ireland quarter-final, has been appointed to control

the blockbuster.

Henry, a former school headmaster, knows only

too well that such history favours Australia, despite top-ranked New

Zealand having been perennial favourites since winning the inaugural

Rugby World Cup in 1987.

The All Blacks’ inability since is

perhaps why Henry won’t be stressing his 2011 hopefuls out about the

magnitude of Sunday’s Tri Nations final encore.

“It’s important that it’s done systematically and gradually and we build again for Sunday’s game,” he said.


suspects the semi-final will be a different style of contest than when

the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks 25-20 in their most recent meeting

in Brisbane in August.

“Australia are a very good rugby side. They have some very talented players, they play real well,” he said.


think the nature of rugby changes a wee bit in finals football when the

result is you can ‘die’ if you lose and that probably makes both sides a

wee bit more conservative in the game they play.

“So they don’t chance their arm as much as they normally would do.


the South African situation at the weekend, where they turned the ball

over under their sticks and Australia scored a try there – you just try

to avoid those situations which can result in winning or losing.

“So I think it will be a pretty careful approach on Sunday.”