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All Blacks Expect Close Encounter of Fourth Kind, Muliaina Says

The All Blacks expect another close tussle in their fourth clash with Australia this year as the Wallabies try to post their first win against them in 11 matches, said Mils Muliaina, the New Zealand full-back.

“The Australians are our neighbors and there’s always that added pressure to be able to perform against them and get those bragging rights,” the 89-test veteran, who has been selected on the wing for this weekend’s match, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “The last encounter we only won by one point and I’m sure this weekend” is going to be tight, he said.

The Oct. 30 final game of the four-match Bledisloe Cup rugby contest in Hong Kong will provide the All Blacks with a platform for an end-of-year tour of Europe and help them build toward next year’s World Cup in New Zealand, said Muliaina.

New Zealand, whose sole World Cup title was in the inaugural event in 1987, faces pressure at home to win rugby’s premier tournament after starting the past three as the favorite. The All Blacks won this year’s Tri-Nations against Australia and South Africa and regained top spot in the International Rugby Board rankings, raising concern they may again peak too early.

“For us it’s about getting this year right, then midway through next year we can take a look at where we are as a team,” Muliaina, 30, said. “It’s about getting in to the best possible shape to win the World Cup -- because we haven’t done that for a very long time.”

The Australia match is the third trans-Tasman test to be held at a neutral venue, after the teams met in Japan last year and in Hong Kong in 2008.

Muliaina and captain Richie McCaw have both played 89 tests for the All Blacks, three fewer than former captain Sean Fitzpatrick, who holds the record.

“I’ll keep making Richie cups of tea and bringing him biscuits so he doesn’t drop me before I get there,” Muliaina said.

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