The Wallabies are determined to notch at least one win in this year’s Bledisloe Cup series, which concludes at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
Not just because they are yet to taste success in their first three tests against the All Blacks in Wellington, Auckland and Sydney, but also because veteran prop James Slipper is set to run out for his 100th test appearance in a Wallabies jersey.
That, according to Wallabies assistant coach Matt Taylor, provides plenty of motivation for an Australian side that is looking to show vast improvements after being handed a record 43-5 defeat by New Zealand at ANZ Stadium last week.
“It’s a massive achievement for James,” Taylor, who coached Slipper during the pair’s stint at the Queensland Reds, said on Saturday as the Wallabies prepared to depart for Brisbane hours before kick-off.
“He’s been a great Wallaby for a number of years and it’s really fitting that he’s playing his 100th test at Suncorp Stadium.
“I know his family’s going to be there. It’s a great occasion. I know the boys are really excited to be part of this day, and we’re all driven to do well for the occasion today.”
While the mood in the Wallabies camp appears to be buoyant and filled with motivation, it’s how they perform on the field in the Queensland capital that will determine how Slipper and his teammates celebrate his milestone.
Much work needed to be done over the the week gone by in the wake of the Sydney shambles, which followed a 27-7 defeat at Eden Park and a 16-all draw at Sky Stadium, if the Wallabies are to even challenge an overhauled All Blacks side this weekend.
If Taylor’s comments are anything to go by, though, it seems that work has been addressed by the Wallabies, with a specific focus on one aspect of the game deemed particularly important by the former Scotland assistant coach.
“We’ve worked on a lot of things, but I think the key thing that we really want to do is put a bit of pressure on the All Blacks,” Taylor said.
“I think last week we didn’t manage to build many phases together. We probably turned over possession too often, and they’re a very good team on that unstructured attack, so I think that’s been the big focus for us.”
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Working in Australia’s favour is their admirable winning record at Suncorp Stadium, a venue they have attained a win rate of nearly 75 percent since 1965.
Preparation for this test has been surrounded by an element of uncertainty, however, given that both the Wallabies and All Blacks will travel in and out of Brisbane from their New South Wales bases on the same day of the match.
Although Taylor himself hasn’t experienced such a scenario in his coaching career, he believes his squad are well-equipped for the unusual travel demands thrust upon them by COVID-19.
“I haven’t done it before but a lot of the Super [Rugby] teams have done it, so we’ve kind of got a map planned out so the boys get up there, we do certain things, we ensure that they’re pretty focused and we have a gradual build-up,” he said.
“We fly into Brisbane and go straight to the stadium, but the guys have done that a lot during the Super season.”
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