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Gareth Thomas: 'This game means everything. We have to leave it all out there.'

The Ospreys and Wales loosehead expects a big reaction against Australia after the chastening loss to Georgia

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'I still remember pretty clearly when we lost'

By Tom Vinicombe
Brodie Retallick and Richie McCaw. (Photo by Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

The All Blacks will use the opportunity to once more win the Bledisloe Cup as a motivator for Thursday night’s clash with the Wallabies, not the fear of losing the coveted trophy for the first time in almost two decades.

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Not since 2003 have the Wallabies been able to get their hands on the Bledisloe, with the All Blacks rarely dropping matches to their trans-Tasman rivals over the past 19 years and never falling to a series defeat.

This year, there will be just two matches between the two neighbouring nations instead of the customary three, which means Australia will have to go undefeated against New Zealand if they’re to rewrite recent history. Speaking to media this week, however, returning All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick suggested that the fear of losing the Bledisloe is never a motivator for him and his teammates.

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“We’ve talked about for a long time in here that [even] if we’ve won it the years we have, you have to go out and win it again so that’s no different this year,” he said. “We obviously realise that it’s been a long time for the Wallabies and they’ll be desperate but at the same time, we need to go out and win it as well.”

“I think it means a lot to this group,” Retallick responded when asked whether the Bledisloe Cup was still treasured by the team, given that they’ve managed to keep a tight grip on it in recent times. “We’ve touched on it this week and lots of different things around it. When I first came into the team, the players like Richie [McCaw] and Dan [Carter] and Kevy Mealamu, all those guys that kind of instilled how much it means to the team and showed us what it meant in history and now I guess as a senior player we’ve passed that on to the newer guys.

“It’s been an awesome week and it’s exciting.”

Retallick will make his first start on Thursday evening since the second Test between NZ and Ireland in July, when the 31-year-old was forced off the field early following a head clash. After a number of weeks on the sidelines, Retallick made a strong return off the bench against Argentina earlier this month but is understandably looking forward to running out from the get-go in Melbourne.

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“I’m excited any time [I get to play for the All Blacks], especially when starting and obviously a Bledisloe Cup match,” he said. “Yeah I’m looking forward to it. Obviously got a little taster last week in Hamilton, coming off the bench, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”

While Retallick said his return to the team has been relatively seamless, there was a significant change in coaching staff while Retallick was away from the squad, with Jason Ryan replacing John Plumtree as forwards coach and Joe Schmidt taking over the attack from Brad Mooar. That’s freshened things up and created a new challenge for the experienced second-rower.

“Obviously played a few now but with Jase and Joe and the new coaching group, there’s been new things to learn as well and they have a different way of doing things so that’s been exciting as well,” he said.

“They’re working the boys hard. I think I said in an interview after the game how hard the group’s been working from what I’ve seen and again this week so we just need to turn it into a performance on Thursday night.”

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With almost a century of Tests under his belt and just over a quarter of them played against the Wallabies, Retallick noted that every match against the All Blacks’ traditional rivals holds a place in his heart – especially ones where things haven’t quite gone NZ’s way.

“They’ve all been pretty special,” he said. “I still remember pretty clearly when we lost, 2015, over here before we went back to Auckland. Any of those ones at Eden Park. The Sydney Tests have always been good.

“I’ve been lucky enough to come out on top every year so we’ll be looking to do that again this year.”

A win in Melbourne would be an achievement in of itself but it would also mark the first time this year that the All Blacks have managed to score back-to-back victories, something Retallick says the All Blacks are desperate to achieve this week after an up and down season to date.

“We had touched on earlier in the week about [how we’ve] lost one, won one, lost one, won one and now it’s time to start building towards performances each week. We need to start doing it now and obviously what great a challenge, being here for Bled 1, before moving back to Auckland.”

Thursday’s match will kick off at 7:45pm from Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

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