Wallabies confident ahead of Bledisloe rematch
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Australia coach Ewen McKenzie denies he is “poking a bear with a stick” by challenging New Zealand to play at its best in Saturday’s Rugby Championships test at Eden Park.
Australia drew confidence from last weekend’s 12-12 draw with New Zealand in Sydney and McKenzie epitomized their bullish attitude when he baited the All Blacks at a news conference Friday.
McKenzie said “it’s not about poking a bear with a stick. It’s a competitive game. We want them to bring their A game because we are going to bring ours.”
The All Blacks have vowed to produce a much better performance at Auckland as they defend a 20-year unbeaten record on Eden Park.
In 2008, Australia won in Sydney but were well beaten in Auckland a week later.
“Over the years there’s been occasions where a week apart things change a lot,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. “Back to 2008, when we got put to the sword in Sydney, there was a fair bit of edge that week.”
The Wallabies have been unable to win at Eden Park stretching back to 1986, but now believe they have the personnel and the form to break that hoodoo.
“We know we’ve improved a lot from last week, we have been focusing on that,” McKenzie said. “We know what we are capable of. We were off the pace at key moments last week, there were key decisions we didn’t get right. We expect to do better this week.”
McKenzie’s comments are likely to further incite the All Blacks team that felt a significant factor in the Sydney draw was referee Jaco Peyper, who sin-binned two All Blacks, blew 14 penalties against them and prevented them asserting their superiority in scrums.
Head coach Steve Hansen said Peyper later admitted making errors, and hoped for a more even performance on Saturday from French referee Roman Poite.
McCaw said the All Blacks cannot blame the referee alone, and should recognize other shortcomings.
“In the first quarter of an hour we did all right, but we certainly let the Wallaby pack get back into it,” he said.
“Perhaps they had the edge in the second half, so you can imagine telling the big boys that on Monday, they weren’t that happy. But it’s all words, it’s about putting it into action tomorrow night. We’ve got to supply our backs with better ball than we did last week.”
New Zealand has been forced to make three changes to its lineup for a match in which victory would retain the bi-lateral Bledisloe Cup for the 13th-straight year.
“There was plenty of criticism that was warranted last week,” Hansen said. “We just didn’t play well enough. We have to be honest about that, and if we want to retain the Bledisloe Cup we have to go up 10 or 12 notches and get on with it.”