The Wallabies feel they’ve got the fitness and finesse to go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks and set themselves up for a crack at the Bledisloe Cup with a victory in game one in Perth.
The Australians need to win both at Optus Stadium and next week in Auckland, where they haven’t won since 1986, to bring home the trophy for the first time in 17 years.
Making some surprise selections including centre James O’Connor, halfback Nic White and fiery hooker Tolu Latu, coach Michael Cheika feels he has the right men in place.
And he believes they’ve had the right preparation for a boilover against the world No.1 side, which would be a massive confidence boost with the World Cup starting next month.
“I have spoken before about early season fitness,” Cheika said. “We’ve had a good chance to get some work under our belt this time and it’s a bit later in the season.
“These are the pinnacle matches between ourselves and NZ, that’s what every player from both sides wants to play in and so that gives you the ticket that says ‘OK you’ve got to play harder than you’ve every played before’ – pretty simple.”
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper said nothing but an 80-minute performance would suffice, with the New Zealanders always ready to pounce on an opportunity.
While the Australians got a win over Argentina last month, they paid the price for lapses against the Springboks.
“We did show good signs for 50-60 minutes in Test matches last year and we fell through the cracks,” Hooper said.
“We’ve given away scores in those matches in clumps where we’ve knocked off, and it’s about making sure we concentrate over 80 minutes and just play our game and work hard off the ball and do things in any footy match you have to do.”
It’s a set-up that the Wallabies themselves have used in the past with Hooper and injured champion David Pocock.
“I think it’s an opportunity for them to do some different, show a different picture, we don’t know what to expect,” Hooper said.
“They’ll be working it out on the run I’m sure too.
“They’re always very solid in what they have to do individually, they’ll be looking for something out of Ardie and Sam respectively so we’ll wait to see what that brings and we’ll have to deal with that accordingly.”
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