Captain Michael Hooper can’t wait to unleash something he hopes “New Zealand haven’t seen before in a Wallabies jersey” in Saturday night’s final Bledisloe Cup test of 2020.
And he’s not talking about surprise No.10 selection Reece Hodge.
Instead it’s explosive rookie flanker Lachie Swinton that has tongues wagging as the hosts look to regain some pride at Suncorp Stadium, a week after a record 43-5 loss in Sydney saw them relinquish the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year.
Versatile 26-year-old Hodge, usually a backline option on the bench, will play five-eighth for just the second time in his 42-test career and offer Australia a sturdy frame in defence and giant boot into attack.
With 23-year-old Swinton the latest to be trialled at No.6 – Pete Samu and Ned Hanigan (twice) have started in the past three tests – Hooper expects a big change at a venue where Australia have won their past six games.
“He has a history of being very physical, bringing aggression to the game and that’s what he’s been picked for,” Hooper said of his Waratahs teammate.
“However, he can get into doing that against New Zealand I’m excited to see it.
“He’s a growing player, one with huge potential and something potentially that New Zealand haven’t seen before in a Wallabies jersey … I’m pumped for Lachie.”
The margins have dramatically swollen since the epic game one draw in Wellington last month but Hooper is adamant that’s not reflective of the gap between the sides.
“It took us a while to get out of a hole [after the Sydney loss] … we’re still a bit dark about letting that opportunity slip,” Hooper said.
“I feel we’re closer [than the result suggests], absolutely no question in my mind.
“New Zealand played really well and we played poorly; it was a big performance in a clutch game, so tip of the cap to them but we’ll improve our stuff.”
With four players in line to make their test debuts for the All Blacks this weekend, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has been clear with his message to his playing group.https://t.co/RbjdAW6Xzi
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 6, 2020
The All Blacks have pulled the changes at their end too, with man-of-the match Richie Mo’unga replaced by Beauden Barrett and four debutants among their match-day 23.
History suggests a closer affair in Brisbane, where incredibly the margin hasn’t been greater than seven points in the past 13 Bledisloe Cup clashes at the various venues used in the city.
That includes two wins, a one-point loss and a draw at Suncorp Stadium since 2011.
“It’s hard to put into words … [I just] love playing there,” Hooper said of the Wallabies’ Brisbane record.
“There’s a feeling you get about playing in some places and Suncorp is certainly that for a Wallabies outfit … there’s a lot of confidence.”
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