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'We don't fear them': Hooper weighs in on Bledisloe war of words

By AAP

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Straight-shooter Michael Hooper has put an end to the Bledisloe war of words, encouraging his Wallabies to be bold and claim a famous victory over New Zealand on Saturday night.

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The Australia captain stepped in front of the camera on the eve of the second Bledisloe test – one the Wallabies must win to keep the series alive – and at the end of a week of verbal barbs.

Wallabies winger Andrew Kellaway’s suggestion the All Blacks had lost their aura was received badly in Aotearoa.

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Will Jordan named to start for the All Blacks in second Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies

So too was Jordan Uelese’s attempt to put pressure on series leaders New Zealand when he said “No one wants to be the first All Blacks team to lose at Eden Park … the pressure’s on them”.

Hooper, not one for monkey business, wouldn’t engage in the malarkey.

“We do respect New Zealand and the All Blacks. But we don’t fear them,” he said.

“Yeah, a lot’s been made of it but, always doesn’t these sort of weeks, isn’t it?”

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“We’re going out there to impose our game on these guys … and I can’t wait to get out there on the field.”

Hooper said he was confident his team had would shut the pre-game chat out of their minds come kickoff.

“The stuff we’ve been talking about is leaving a mark,” he said.

“We play for a lot of reasons. We talk about those often in our team rooms. A common and big factor is for our people.

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“It’s great when the jerseys come out the next morning, there’s people walking their dogs wearing the Wallabies gold.”

Dave Rennie has swung four changes for the match, which also doubles as the Rugby Championship series opener.

In comes backline pair Matt To’ouma and Marika Koroibete at Jordan Petaia and Len Ikitau’s expense, while in the forward pack, Matt Philip and Lachie Swinton return for Harry Wilson and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

Koroibete, suspended for Bledisloe I for a late night drinking session, looms as Australia’s game changer.

“It was tough for him sitting in the stands last week … I can’t wait to see him with ball in hand or without ball in hand,” Hooper said.

In contrast, the All Blacks have made just one injury-enforced change, bringing in winger Will Jordan for centre Anton Lienert-Brown.

New Zealand are yet to truly hit their strides under second-year coach Ian Foster, and were pilloried in the local press for their poor start against Australia last week.

“We expect them to grow again and be better. They always are, second test of the year,” Hooper said.

The Wallabies head to Eden Park very aware of their rotten record at the ground: no wins against New Zealand in the last 21 clashes, dating back to 1986.

This week there will be one major difference.

A rescheduling of the series due to New Zealand’s border controls prompted NZ Rugby to place a second test at Eden Park, and ticket sales have been poor.

Despite a ‘kids go free’ promotion and cheap Air New Zealand flight-ticket combos from Wellington, where the test was to be played, the colosseum will be around half-full.

Maintaining his poker face, Hooper denied that would advantage Australia.

“We haven’t even thought about it,” he said.

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'We don't fear them': Hooper weighs in on Bledisloe war of words

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