Rugby Championship

Bledisloe Cup big, Cooper not so for All Blacks

2016-08-26 13:19
Quade Cooper (AFP)

Wellington - New Zealand say Saturday's Test in Wellington against Australia is all about securing the Bledisloe Cup for a 14th straight year, downplaying the appearance of the polarising Quade Cooper.

The world champion All Blacks are overwhelming favourites to win, given the way they steamrollered the Wallabies 42-8 in Sydney last week.

Coach Steve Hansen has expressed concern that his side was so dominant that complacency loomed as the big enemy.

But captain Kieran Read said the need to retain the Bledisloe Cup was enough motivation not to go off the boil.

"We're a pretty proud bunch and the Bledisloe Cup means a lot to us so obviously we've got to do a job tomorrow night for us to hang on to it," Read said after leading the All Blacks through their final training run on Friday.

"It's never easy backing up a great performance and we're looking to go out and do that and really stamp our mark on the game. We've got to do that early.

"The Bledisloe Cup is a massive driver for us and that's still up in the air right now, so we can't be saying anything about holding onto it until we do the job one more time."

Both New Zealand and Australia rate the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy, as second in importance only to the World Cup.

But the Wallabies have not sighted it for a long time. They have lost their last 18 matches on New Zealand soil, dating back to 2001, and last held the Bledisloe Cup 14 years ago.

In an effort to shore up their ranks after the Sydney drubbing, the Wallabies have brought back fly-half Quade Cooper for his first international in 11 months.

Cooper is a ready target for elements of the New Zealand crowd given his history of incidents involving former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

New Zealand-born Cooper also has his detractors in Australia for his ability to run hot and cold, particularly when playing against his country of birth.

"There will be a queue trying to blame Cooper if things go pear-shaped," wrote Jim Tucker in the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper.

But, with McCaw now retired, Read could not understand what the fuss was about.

"It's a non-issue for us as a squad. We're here to play footy against whoever it is," he said.

"In the past, in New Zealand, it's created a bit of stir but a lot of our guys probably weren't involved in those moments and so it's just another name on the team sheet for them."

Teams:

New Zealand

15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Seta Tamanivalu

Australia

15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio

Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Ala’alatoa, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Will Skelton, 21 Tevita Kuridrani, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Nick Phipps

 

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