'Don't buy into the bulls***': All Blacks stars react to NZR-RA drama
All Blacks stars Brad Weber and Codie Taylor have downplayed the off-field war of words between New Zealand Rugby [NZR] and Rugby Australia [RA] in the lead-up to Sunday’s final Bledisloe Cup clash of the year.
After locking the Bledisloe Cup away for a 19th straight year in Auckland last month, the NZR drew the ire of RA when they opted against sending the All Blacks to play the third Bledisloe Cup test after the Rugby Championship was jeopardised by Covid-19 outbreaks in New Zealand and Australia.
With the trans-Tasman travel bubble already suspended, New Zealand entered a nationwide lockdown as the virus ravaged Australia, most notably in New South Wales.
As a result, the feasibility of the Rugby Championship, which was initially scheduled to be mostly co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, was cast in doubt.
That left NZR waiting for confirmation of how and where the Rugby Championship would be played before deciding to send the All Blacks to Australia for the third Bledisloe Cup clash, which was originally meant to be played last Saturday.
That confirmation only came five days before the final Bledisloe Cup match was first meant to be played, as it was announced that Queensland would host the final four rounds of the competition.
Afforded the luxury of certainty, the All Blacks travelled to Australia last Thursday, arriving in Perth in time for this weekend’s re-scheduled encounter.
However, that didn’t stop RA chief executive Andy Marinos and Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie from lashing out at their Kiwi counterparts over their delay in decision.
Rennie was left “bloody angry” over what he claims was a non-committal stance by NZR and has maintained his frustrations in recent weeks, while Marinos labelled the decision as “incredibly disappointing”.
Their comments have added a tense edge to the match, which double as both teams’ second Rugby Championship fixture, but Weber and Taylor have rejected the notion that the off-field drama is being used as motivation for the All Blacks.
Speaking to media on Friday, Weber said that he and his teammates haven’t got swept up in “the bulls*** of the politics” that Rennie and his colleagues have conjured in the lead-up to the test.
“Particularly for us as players, I don’t think we buy into the bullshit of the politics too much,” the 30-year-old halfback, who will start his second-ever test at Optus Stadium and was coached by Rennie during their time at the Chiefs together, said.
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“We just try and focus on the game. I can’t speak for what the Aussies are like or what they’re thinking, but I’d like to think if they’re rugby players, they’re sort of the same way.
“It’s probably more something that Rens [Rennie] might try and dig into to create a bit of motivation, but I think we’ve heard enough from them.
“They’re pretty keen to right the wrongs from Eden Park, so they won’t be lacking motivation this weekend, I’m sure, without all the carry on that’s been happening.”
Taylor echoed Weber’s sentiments as he outlined that the Wallabies already have no shortage of motivation following their back-to-back Bledisloe Cup defeats at Eden Park last month.
“I think they’ll have other things that are trying to fire them up, I imagine. Professional footy, there’s a little bit of politics involved, and I think that’s what it came down to at the end of the day,” he said.
“Their coach will be firing them up in more ways than one, I think. Like I said earlier, they have a lot to prove, so it’s going to be a bloody physical battle, I imagine, and they’ll be out to make up for what’s been.”
Instead, Taylor’s focus is targeted on producing a vastly-improved performance compared to that of the last time the All Blacks played the Wallabies in Perth two years ago, when the Australians ran up a record-breaking score against the Kiwis.
“I remember that very clearly, that game. It wasn’t great. That game is a big learning for us. We probably thought we could just turn up and do the same thing we’d done previously, and a team like Australia, they’ve got a lot to prove,” the 30-year-old said.
“They’re dangerous and they’re at home, so they’ll back themselves. They’ll be quite confident, I think, this weekend, and they’ve been waiting here for the last couple of weeks, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us and make up for what was a couple of years ago.”
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