The stunning Aaron Smith stat that counts against the Wallabies
The Wallabies will be out to change 35 years of history at Eden Park on Saturday night in their Bledisloe Cup opener with the All Blacks.
New Zealand, in contrast, will be celebrating it.
Aaron Smith will become just the 10th All Blacks player to notch 100 tests when he runs out in Auckland.
Right alongside Smith will be captain Sam Whitelock, the only other current Kiwi centurion, just as he was 19 years ago.
The pair first met on the way to their first day of high school in Feilding, a town of 17,000 people set in the beautiful rolling hills of the Manawatu.
“I remember it really clearly,” Whitelock said.
“Walking across the school grounds and little short Maori boy with a big afro yelling out at me going, ‘Oh bro, are you coming here?
“I was like, ‘I’m dressed in school uniform walking to the first day of school so it’s pretty obvious’.”
Halfback Smith, 35cm shorter than the imposing Whitelock, would take two years longer than his school mate to represent the All Blacks.
“It’s pretty cool that we’ve both gone down different pathways, but we’re both here together,” Whitelock said.
“It’s pretty humbling for ourselves, but also the school and the community.
“People don’t see his hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
“He is the guy that’s always writing things down, putting a plan together and making sure that everything he’s doing is for the betterment of the team.”
Smith has played more than twice the number of test matches than the entire Wallabies backline selected by Dave Rennie: just one of the reasons Australia will start as underdogs against the Kiwis.
The other chief reason would be 35 years of hurt.
Not since 1986 have the Wallabies beaten New Zealand at Eden Park, a run which has helped keep the coveted Bledisloe Cup trophy in New Zealand since 2003.
One factor that could help Rennie’s side snap the streak: the weather.
Australia secured a heart-stopping 16-16 draw with New Zealand on their first-up Test in New Zealand last year, achieved in ferocious winds and rain at Wellington’s Sky Stadium.
A gale force wind warning issued for Auckland on Saturday was not lost on All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
“(Australia are) a very committed physical ruck and run type team,” he said.
“They’ve spoken about dominating us up front and playing a fast physical game.
“The Wellington Test last year, my recollection was there was a lot of rain and wind and it was a very different game. The ball was swirling around.
“Hopefully we get a slightly different day here.”
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