Wallabies unfazed about AB’s backlash

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iol spt aug22 Wallabies-NZ AP Australia ended New Zealands 17-match winning streak last week when they drew 12-12 in Sydney. Photo by: Rob Griffith/AP

Auckland - New Zealand's rugby team, in their public utterances at least, have come across this week like a bear with a raging hangover that only a feast of Wallaby can cure.

The All Blacks drew 12-12 with Australia last weekend in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney, bringing an end to a 17-match winning streak.

The post-mortem was unforgiving with labels like “poor”, “inadequate” and “lacking execution” attached to their performance.

Coach Steve Hansen has pitched in as well, telling the All Blacks he expects an improvement of '10 to 12 notches' in the return clash at Eden Park on Saturday.

New Zealand's rugby-mad public also expects, if not demands, a backlash on Saturday to act as a kind of ritual cleansing so their equilibrium can return to balance.

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, however, appears absolutely unconcerned that the Wallabies might have “poked a bear with a stick” last Saturday.

“We don't think about that,” he told reporters at the team hotel on Friday.

“We think about our potential as a football team so we're trying to realise that.

“They'll judge their own performance. We put them under pressure but we made mistakes too so it's not about poking a bear with a stick.

“It's a competitive game and we want them to bring their 'A' game, because we will bring ours.

“And that's what it's all about.”

McKenzie was part of the 1991 World Cup winning Wallabies, who were built less than two years out from the tournament by coach Bob Dwyer, who injected youth into the side and changed their game plan.

The former tighthead prop took a similar approach last year when he got the job and has shaken up the team and playing style, while also attempting to shore up the scrum.

On last week's evidence, the gap between the All Blacks and Wallabies has diminished in the last 12 months.

The Wallabies entered last week's game at the Olympic Stadium on a seven-match winning streak of their own and some pundits see Saturday's match as an indicator of which side is trending upwards towards next year's World Cup.

“Our confidence has been increasing over a period of time,” McKenzie added.

“We didn't come out of (last week's) game patting ourselves on the back and saying all is good, we were disappointed.

“We looked at the video and saw what we can do better so that's what we have focused on.

“We know we were off the pace last week in a few key moments, key decisions and we expect to do better this week.”

Doing better on Saturday, if it results in a victory, would undermine some of the mythology around the current All Blacks and their 'fortress' Eden Park.

The All Blacks have not lost a match at the ground since 1994 - a run of 32 successive victories - while the Wallabies have not won there since 1986.

The All Blacks are also unbeaten in New Zealand since 2009 and have won 29 of their 32 matches - two of which have been draws with the Wallabies - since the 2011 World Cup.

McKenzie, understandably given the weight of it suggests an All Blacks win, has not been dwelling too much on history in the build-up.

“We don't sit there and mull over it,” he said.

“In the end it is going to get sorted out on the football field, players against players.

“We just have to be far more accurate than we were last week, we need to get the basics right.

“Rugby is not that complicated.” – Reuters



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