Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, August 22
Barnes predicts Sydney kick-fest
August 20, 2009
Australia's Berrick Barnes breaks away to score a try in the Wallabies' narrow defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland last month © Getty Images
Australia's Berrick Barnes believes this weekend's latest Tri-Nations battle with New Zealand will be decided by the battle of the boot.
The Wallabies have won praise for keeping the ball in hand wherever possible in their opening two Tri-Nations matches but two defeats have left them at the bottom of the log ahead of a make-or-break clash with the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.
South Africa currently lead the chase for the southern hemisphere crown and the undefeated Springboks have shown the value of a superior kicking game. The All Blacks' repeated use of the high-ball at Eden Park last month also proved decisive as the Wallabies surrendered an early lead, eventually going down 22-16.
As a result, Barnes expects the kicking game to be a key element in what could also be a Bledisloe Cup decider at the ANZ Stadium.
"We'll be doing our best to give the fans what they want and that's a good contest of running rugby but obviously conditions and how the game's going will determine that," he said. "Kicking's going to be a part of it no matter how much we try and say we want it to be running rugby, there's going to be an element of kicking to it because field position - as we've seen with the way the laws are now - plays a big part in winning games.
"If you're down the right end you'll go a long way to winning it, so kicking will play a part but I certainly hope that when we get the opportunity to play football we will."
Barnes pointed to the return of Dan Carter, and the inclusion of Luke McAlister ahead of Ma'a Nonu at inside-centre, as a sure sign the Kiwis will again look to control proceedings with the boot.
"I think it gives them a lot more options I suppose in terms of kicking, (having) a left and right footer will obviously help them get out of trouble. Luke's obviously a very powerful player, good on his feet so he'll bring another element to their team for sure."
The likeable Queenslander concedes he and fellow playmaker Matt Giteau both have room for improvement in terms of their kicking in general play.
"Some of our kicks haven't been as well directed as we'd like," he admitted. "And that's where (Springboks scrumhalf) Fourie du Preez was phenomenal last week his kicks were basically within a sixpence of each other and the chasers came down right with the ball.
"We've got to make sure our contestable kicks are that ... not caught 10 metres away from the defensive line."
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old insists his mistimed pass which hit George Smith in the head and denied the Wallabies an almost unassailable lead at Eden Park, no longer haunts him.
"What's done is done, that's a couple of weeks ago and I was honest enough with it - I know I stuffed up," he said. "You're going to have games like that where things happen and you've just got to move on.
"We know what's coming Saturday night, it's going to be tough both teams are desperate. We need a win to keep not only our Tri Nations hopes alive but also the Bledisloe so, it's pretty important and the boys have been really looking forward to it and we'll be ready."