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‘Never take Australia lightly’: Why the All Blacks need to be wary

By Finn Morton
Quade Cooper of the Wallabies talks to team mates in a huddle after losing The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Back in January, when legendary coach Eddie Jones was confirmed as Dave Rennie’s replacement in the Wallabies’ hot seat, there was a sense of excitement within rugby circles in Australia.

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Following a disastrous campaign in 2022, which saw the men in gold win just five of 14 Test matches, Rugby Australia had recruited one of the greatest coaches of all time ahead of the World Cup.

Jones is a winner.

Whether it was with the Wallabies 20 years ago, South Africa, Japan or England – let’s not focus on how that tenure ended, though –  Jones’ success as a Test rugby coach was practically unrivalled.

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Certainly in the short-term, at least.

Sport is a results driven business, which is why Jones is well liked and admired – but it’s also the reason the 63-year-old was axed as England’s coach late last year. Losses lead to panic and change.

Since returning to Australia, Jones’ charisma, charm and unwavering confidence has seen the 15-player game return to mainstream media headlines Down Under. Wallabies fans held onto hope.

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But, for many fans who were fuelled by new-found optimism less than eight months ago, they’re now filled with the familiar feelings of dread, doubt and pessimism.

The Wallabies have started their new era under coach Jones with three losses from as many starts, and have to overcome incredible odds to turn that around against the All Blacks in Dunedin this weekend.

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Fans on either side of the Tasman would agree that the Wallabies are heavy underdogs – Australian bookmakers would agree, too. It seems like an impossible battle for Jones’ army to win.

But the All Blacks, who have made a number of changes to their matchday squad ahead of Bledisloe II, aren’t exactly celebrating just yet. There’s still a game to play, and the Wallabies have something to prove.

Playmaker Damian McKenzie, who will start his second Test match of the year in the No. 10 jersey this weekend, is wary of a Wallabies outfit who have “nothing to lose.”

“You can never take Australia lightly,” McKenzie told reporters.

“They’re coming over to New Zealand (with) nothing to lose. They’ll be able to throw the ball around and Eddie will have them up for this game this weekend.

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“A few guys getting an opportunity this weekend but for us we’ve just got to be able to relish the situation and the chance we’ve been given to play.

“The Aussies are going to be coming over throwing everything at us, we expect that, but we’re ready.”

McKenzie will take hold of the All Blacks’ attacking reins on Saturday afternoon at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Named alongside halfback Finlay Christie in the halves, McKenzie – who starred against Los Pumas in Mendoza last month – will look to steer a new-look side around the park.

“If we’re not playing in previous weeks, you get time to build different combinations,” McKenzie added.

“There’s going to be a lot of energy, boys who are getting a crack who haven’t had much of a crack this year so far. Naturally the excitement is going to be there.

“For us it’s not trying to overplay our hand too much, it can be easily done when you haven’t played a lot of rugby.

“We’ve had a good week so far to build those combinations and ultimately it’s about going out there and nailing the simple things. Hopefully off that comes some good attacking rugby.”

Chiefs duo Samipeni Finau and Shaun Stevenson have been named to debut in the starting side, while Crusaders utility Dallas McLeod will potentially get his first minutes off the bench.

This is the All Blacks’ final Test match on New Zealand soil before heading to Europe for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand will confirm their World Cup squad on Monday.

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Comments

8 Comments
J
Jacque 345 days ago

So sick and tired of these articles. Australia are UTTER GARBAGE at the moment. No game plan. No leaders in the squad. I bet Eddie rues taking this job.

0
007 345 days ago

Wary of what specifically? Of yet another sub-par performance?
No amount of clickbait headlines and eternal optimism can prevent the inevitable on Saturday - another All Blacks lesson to add more proof that Jones' waning coaching ability contains more sugar (of the Cadbury variety) than substance.

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