Improved Wallabies ready for All Blacks tilt
BLEDISLOE CUP: Australian skipper Michael Hooper said the Wallabies were ready to test themselves against world champions New Zealand in this weekend's Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane.
Hooper said the Australians were a much stronger, consistent and confident team than the one swamped 34-54 by the All Blacks in the series opener in Sydney in August.
The All Blacks have already clinched the Bledisloe Cup for a 15th consecutive year.
But they only just denied the Wallabies with a converted try less than two minutes from full-time to scrape home 35-29 in a cliffhanger when the teams last met in Dunedin on August 26.
The Wallabies have only beaten the All Blacks once in their last 18 meetings, but Hooper said his team had steadily improved throughout the Rugby Championship, finishing second to New Zealand and ahead of South Africa and Argentina.
"We're ready to test ourselves," he told reporters on Friday.
"We've definitely done some good building over the last couple of weeks.
"I think we have got a greater belief in our game and what we can do and we have also seen a lot of players step up within that time as well.
"For us to beat them in front of a home crowd would be fantastic."
While it has been all one-way traffic in the Bledisloe Cup in recent years, the Wallabies feel it could be a good time to face the All Blacks.
New Zealand will be without ace flyhalf Beauden Barrett and lock Brodie Retallick and with the series already decided, the Australians may have more to prove in the dead series rubber.
The All Blacks have opted not to risk Barrett after a recent head knock, with Lima Sopoaga to start at No.10.
"It'd be great to beat the No.1 team in the world," Hooper said.
"That would do a lot of things for a lot of people and maybe change their perception but we're very positive of how things have been working in and around the team and the guys' commitment to the detail and to getting better.
"Tomorrow night's just going to be a reflection of that."
Hooper said his side have grown principally in their game management enough to secure the win.
Retiring former captain Stephen Moore, named among the replacements, will feature in his last Test in Australia and his 125th overall.
The veteran hooker will end his international career after Australia's European tour next month.
The All Blacks were forced into a late team change Friday after reserve flank Matt Todd injured his groin in training.
Ardie Savea was called up as a new replacement after missing out to Todd in the original team selection.