The Wallabies go into Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup encounter as rank underdogs, but Michael Chieka and his men will be desperate to get back to winning ways.
It is a shame that the Wallabies will have to get past the best team in World Rugby to ‘get back on the horse’. This is a big game, and as always, the All Blacks are expected to be the winners. In front of a full house in Sydney, this is the beginning of a period of time that will define Australian rugby’s credibility. Even if Chieka doesn’t get the victory, his side must put out a performance that suggests there is still pride left in the jersey.
During the series loss to England, it was discipline that cost the Wallabies on too frequent an occasion. There didn’t seem to be much leadership on the field. That is unacceptable and the Wallabies were deserving losers in June. But this is a new series, and like any Australian side in any sport, this team will rise for the big stage.
All Blacks Lose George Moala To Injury
Being the favored team to win isn’t a breeze, in fact, it never has been for the All Blacks. So much planning for an opponent like the Wallabies is required. Immediately after the Welsh series, Steve Hansen shifted focus to The Rugby Championship. Before that, Hansen had already re-ignited his war of words with Michael Chieka (main picture). The two coaches have been firing barbs at each other through the media this week. Some things never change, but to many, it wouldn’t be a Bledisloe Cup encounter without the tension.
The All Blacks arrived in Sydney a little earlier than usual. Doing most of their gym work in Bondi, the extra time to prepare has done the team well according to several players.
— Sam Worthington (@samworthingtown) August 16, 2016
The All Blacks preparation hasn’t been without injury this week. Midfielder George Moala suffered a medial knee injury in Sydney during a training session. It is a big blow for Moala, because the in-form Blues midfielder has earn’t high praise from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
We think that George’s game is a little more complete at this stage. He will be out for a few weeks but he was one we were seriously looking at.
For the opening test anyway, All Black coaches decided not to call in any reinforcements in the midfield. Kane Hames and Matt Todd were included in the flight to Sydney as injury cover in the forward pack. Sam Cane is still suffering from concussion symptoms sustained in the Chiefs semi final loss to the Hurricanes three weeks ago. Even if named in the starting squad, Cane’s progress will be monitored right up until kickoff on Saturday night.
ANZ Stadium Troubles For The All Blacks
The All Blacks don’t have a fine record at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. In 15-matches, the back-to-back world champions have just a 50% winning record. In 2014, the All Blacks were forced to tie with the Wallabies. This resulted in a lot of negative media criticism, with some suggesting that a crisis had suddenly found its way into the All Blacks camp. Then last year, the Wallabies upset the script by not just tying with, but beating the All Blacks.
At the same stadium, the Wallabies also beat the All Blacks in the semi final of Rugby World Cup 2003.
So traditionally, the matches in Sydney have always been the best chance presented to the Wallabies of beating their Tasman rivals. This weekend will be no different. If Chieka and his men don’t win in Sydney, don’t expect something special in Wellington on August 27th. Simply put–in order for the Wallabies to recapture the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002, victory at ANZ Stadium in Sydney is one of the core ingredients.
Quade Cooper Given The ‘Thumbs Up’ By Wallabies Coach
Quade Cooper was signaled out by Chieka this week. The Wallabies coach says that Cooper has X Factor and is interested in pairing him with Will Genia once again. If selected, it will be the first time that Cooper, a player All Black fans love to hate, hasn’t gone against his native countrymen since Eden Park last year. In that game, Cooper was completely exposed, but Chieka appears to have faith that improvements have been made.
There’s been areas of his game that he’s been working really hard to improve on. I’ve been really impressed with him since he’s returned.
It has been 14-years since the Wallabies held the Bledisloe Cup as their own. There has been the odd victory here and there, but none of those has left anybody seriously doubting that the All Blacks wouldn’t bounce back in the next game. Chieka needs his men to win, but do it with absolute conviction. In the back of his mind, Chieka will be relieved that the return match isn’t at Eden Park. With that said, the All Blacks are almost impossible to beat at any venue around New Zealand.
Five Returning Players For Wallabies
Aside from Cooper, five European-based players will return for the Wallabies. They are Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, and Will Genia.
Some of these men were on the field in London last November, in the Rugby World Cup final. That day, the All Blacks created history, winning 34-17 and becoming the first side to win back-to-back world championships.
Since then, Australian rugby has been under all sorts of media criticism. In June, the Wallabies were handed a 3-0 series defeat by England, but it was the Australian sides poor form in Super Rugby that was most disappointing.
Can the Wallabies pull something special out of the hat in Sydney again? Yes, they certainly can. Why? Because this is the Wallabies we are talking about.
“Main photo credit”