Rugby World Cup 2011
Pressure on All Blacks
David Nucifora (File)
Auckland - The Wallabies will be out to crank up the pressure on the All Blacks and ensure yet more Rugby World Cup depression for the whole of New Zealand, Australia assistant coach David Nucifora said on Thursday.
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Rugby-obsessed New Zealanders are getting edgy as the All Blacks' World Cup semi-final clash with world number two and fierce regional rivals Australia draws closer at Eden Park on Sunday.
Nucifora, who coached the Auckland Blues at the time of the All Blacks' quarter-final defeat by France at the 2007 World Cup, said national expectations were for New Zealand to win the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time in 24 years were intolerably high.
"I was here the last time in 2007 and it was pretty glum," Nucifora said.
"It means a heck of a lot to New Zealanders, the game of rugby, so I think that just puts a lot of pressure on their team."
Incumbent Graham Henry was re-appointed All Blacks coach despite New Zealand's worst-ever World Cup result since the tournament began in 1987 and the fact no other Kiwi has held the job the year after a losing World Cup campaign.
"The (New Zealand) players know and the players understand the expectation that sits on their shoulders to win a World Cup," Nucifora said.
"You only have to walk the streets, it's everywhere around you at the moment.
"The pressure is mounting, the expectation is there, it's been a long time and people want to win it, it means a heck of a lot to them. It's going to be interesting how they deal with that."
Nucifora said the Wallabies, their belief bolstered by a fighting 11-9 win over defending champions South Africa in last weekend's quarter-finals, will do all they can to exert maximum pressure on the All Blacks.
"It's a massive game and how players deal with pressure during the game will dictate what the outcome will be.
"So if there is scoreboard pressure on the New Zealanders, then that will make it interesting to see how they hold it together."
Nucifora said the Wallabies were working on their attack and lineout to take the extra steps to get past the All Blacks to the final.
"Obviously it was a great defensive effort against the Springboks and the work around the contact areas was very good.
"But there were areas in our game - our attack and our lineout - a couple of things that needed to improve.
"If we take our defensive effort from the weekend and our first 40 minutes against the Kiwis (in the 2011 Tri Nations decider in Brisbane) and we'll be getting closer to putting together a pretty good performance."
Nucifora said fullback Kurtley Beale's injured hamstring was improving, but his availability for Sunday's match remained in doubt.
"We don't have a totally clear idea just yet as to whether he is going to make it," he said.
"We'll look at him again tomorrow (Friday) when we train. He wouldn't necessarily need to train fully on Friday to play on Sunday but we'll be having a closer look at how far he has progressed."
Prop Sekope Kepu also hasn't trained this week with an ankle injury but he has been given good reports by medical staff and is expected to be named in the front row.
Nucifora also said inside centre Pat McCabe (shoulder) "looks good", in an indication he will retain his position at number 12 and oppose in-form All Black Ma'a Nonu.
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