Rugby Championship

McKenzie banks on youngsters

2013-08-22 08:27
Ewen McKenzie (Getty)

Wellington - Australia coach Ewen McKenzie has given his young side a second chance to prove themselves against the All Blacks on Saturday but warned that if they did not step up in Wellington, their Test careers could be over.

The Wallabies were hammered 47-29 by the All Blacks in Sydney last weekend in the opening match of this year's Rugby Championship that doubled as McKenzie's first match in charge.

McKenzie, however, refused to allow the result to be the definitive marker for his side, asking virtually the same group of players to work on the "20 or 30 little things that went wrong" this week and show they could match the world champions.

"We chose them all last week for a reason. They were in form," McKenzie told reporters at the team hotel in central Wellington. "Clearly we didn't get the performance we wanted.

"But there are a lot of things we can tidy up technically and we spent time on that and retained faith that the guys, with a bit more time and preparation and information around certain areas would do better.

"They were chosen for a reason and those reasons haven't changed but clearly we need to get a better outcome."

The only change McKenzie made to his starting side for the match at Wellington Regional Stadium was injury enforced with Brumbies forward Scott Fardy coming off the bench to start at blindside flanker for Hugh McMeniman.

McMeniman has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

McKenzie refused to provide a knee-jerk reaction by overhauling his backline, which struggled to break down the All Blacks defensive screen and made too many errors when they did.

He named Matt Toomua at flyhalf again instead of the mercurial Quade Cooper, while fullback Jesse Mogg was also retained after a scratchy performance at the Olympic Stadium.

Toomua, making his debut, looked more than able to handle the pressure of Test rugby but failed to really fire his backline while Mogg, playing his second test, was found wanting defensively and his powerful kicking game failed him.

"They're all good players. They don't suddenly appear at Test level," McKenzie said. "It was a difficult night for a lot of our players but that's a function of pressure.

"You have to credit the All Blacks, they generate a lot of pressure as they do to every team, it's how we respond to that."

McKenzie took over from New Zealander Robbie Deans last month and immediately put his stamp on the squad with eight uncapped players, giving five of them their test debuts as starters or off the bench last week.

The former Queensland Reds coach may be re-building a squad ahead of the 2015 World Cup but he is adamant that, like the All Blacks, he expects his players to perform or their international careers will be over sooner rather than later.

"This is not a three-year project, you have to get on with it. We haven't got time to be messing around," McKenzie said.

"If you have aspirations at the Test level then you have to climb up (because) if the train stops at the station you need to get on otherwise it leaves.

"That's how it works."


New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charles Piutau.


15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani


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