Australia coach Robbie Deans has declared the state of the playing surface a non-issue ahead of Saturday's trans-Tasman showdown with New Zealand, insisting his players would "play on asphalt" if they had to.
Deans was forced to deflect a barrage of questions on the controversial Etihad Stadium pitch shortly after announcing two personnel changes to his starting side for the crucial Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup encounter. Berrick Barnes will line up at inside centre for the suspended Quade Cooper with Matt Giteau shifting to fly-half, while experienced rake Stephen Moore comes in for Saia Faingaa.
"I have no concerns about it, it's a level playing field for both sides," said Deans. "We'll play on asphalt if we have to, it doesn't matter."
He added: "It's a Bledisloe Test match happening in Melbourne this weekend and that's fantastic. It'll be a great occasion, a great game, it'll be great theatre and there'll be an awful lot for people to enjoy."
The AFL Players' Association threatened a boycott of matches at Etihad Stadium on Monday before the league and stadium management agreed on a series of improvements to the ground which will also host two AFL matches this weekend.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said the Kiwis would put longer studs in their boots and hope for the best.
"I've heard there's a bit of talk about the surface but at the end of the day we can't change it, we've just got to get on with it," McCaw said.
"I guess one thing is that with the roof shut it won't be wet so that's a positive. I'm sure it will be fine.
"We've just got to make the best of it. I've played on a few surfaces like that. Once you get under way there's the odd issue but we've just got to put that to the side."