Wallabies brace for All Blacks backlash

2015-08-14 14:24
Michael Cheika (Gallo)

Auckland - The Wallabies are bracing for an All Blacks backlash in the Bledisloe Cup showdown in Auckland on Saturday, when they confront each other in their final Test before naming their World Cup squads.

"They're going to try and smash us," Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said as the Australians wrapped up training in heavy rain on Friday.

"They've made that pretty clear. They've mentioned the word physicality a lot."

The world champion All Blacks were stung by their 27-19 loss to the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship decider last week and want revenge.

"There's got to be a response because if we don't respond to it then we're going to run second and we don't like doing that," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Captain Richie McCaw, preparing for a world record 142nd Test, rated the All Blacks training this week - when the match-day side shaped up against the rest of the squad - as among the most physically intense he has experienced.

"It was right up there. We asked the boys who were against us to put a bit of pressure on because that's what we're going to get (from Australia). Hopefully it's what was required."

The Bledisloe Cup is contested annually between the trans-Tasman rivals with the All Blacks desperate to make amends with a comprehensive win to retain the trophy they have held since 2003.

Particular focus has been put on Cheika's decision to recall Quade Cooper at flyhalf.

The Australian pivot rates among the top playmakers in the world but he was not at his best in his Super Rugby appearances this year and has been rattled in previous Tests in New Zealand.

Auckland-born Cooper is also considered "public enemy number one" in New Zealand, following past off-the-ball shots at McCaw, and can expect a hostile reception from both the crowd and the All Blacks.

"We've got to put as much pressure on him as we can," McCaw said.

"He's the flyhalf for their team and we want to make it as tough a night for him as possible. That's what I'm worried about and if the crowd help out with that, I don't know, that would be good."

Cheika has also gambled at scrum-half where Nic White will start as the only specialist in the squad with inside back Matt Giteau providing cover off the bench.

This has allowed him to carry six forward reserves so the Wallabies can replace most of their pack with fresh replacements in the crucial closing stages.

Hansen has opted for five forwards and three backs to come off the bench with no lock replacement, leaving that role to regular loose-forward hardman Jerome Kaino who has been replaced in the starting line-up by Victor Vito.

Hansen said it would give the New Zealanders "more mobility late in the piece", with Vito's inclusion as McCaw's partner in the loose coming after the All Blacks were soundly beaten at the contact area in their past two Tests.

"You've got to go out and play what's in front of you and deal and adapt and learn and adjust as you go, and we didn't do that well last week."

If the plan works, it will improve the All Blacks' frame of mind before they head to England next month to defend the World Cup, although Hansen said he would not be deciding on that squad for another two weeks.

Cheika, however, indicated the bulk of the Wallabies' World Cup squad was evident in the 23 named to play the All Blacks and he dismissed suggestions of problems if they lose on Saturday.

"I don't fear failure. I'm not worried about that. I just want to do my best, the team do its best and let the cards fall where they may."


New Zealand:

15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Malakai Fekitoa


15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Henry Speight, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Nic White, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-James Horwill 4-Will Skelton, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Stephen Moore (captain), 1-Scott Sio

Substitutes: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-James Slipper, 18-Greg Holmes, 19-Dean Mumm, 20-Kane Douglas, 21-David Pocock, 22-Matt Giteau, 23-Kurtley Beale


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