Wallabies plan to stay the pace with All Blacks

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:21

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP: Skipper Michael Hooper urged his Wallabies team Friday to stick with the All Blacks in the hope of pulling off a morale-restoring win in the Rugby Championship series opener this weekend.

The Australians are looking to end a five-Test losing run against the world champions if they are to retain a realistic hope of winning back the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 15 years.

Coach Michael Cheika wants his Wallabies to apply pressure to the All Blacks, as the British and Irish Lions did in their recent drawn series, in a bid to produce a boilover at Sydney's Olympic stadium on Saturday.

Hooper is expecting the All Blacks to hit the ground running to put the home team under pressure and said it was important for his teammates to hang in there.

"They are really good at that 60-minute mark of that continued pressure," Hooper told reporters.

"They know their roles really well, and that's their bench included.

"Our bench hasn't seen the enthusiasm in the last couple of games that we probably would've liked to have seen so picked a really strong bench, guys like Lopeti Timani, Sekope Kepu in the front row and Tevita Kuridrani to come on.

"Some guys to really up the tempo, up the enthusiasm, and some really nice skill-set and experience on the bench to close out a game."

Hooper knows the importance of a first-up win at home. The Wallabies last won a Bledisloe Cup opener in 2015, a 27-19 victory after a 12-12 draw in the previous year.

The All Blacks have a relatively low 58.33 percent winning record at the Sydney venue but since losing back-to-back encounters in 2007 and 2008, the world champions have won six of the last eight.

"We do have the benefit of having two in Australia this year, so the one in Brisbane will be nice at the end," Hooper said.

"This group's come together this year to do something and what's wrong with a dream? What's wrong with a goal that everyone here wants to achieve?

"There's nothing wrong with it and that's what we should be aspiring to and wanting so everyone in our change-room has that mentality."

The Wallabies travel to Dunedin next week for game two, having never won a series after dropping the first match at home.

The last time Australia won a trans-Tasman Test in New Zealand was in 2001.

The Wallabies intend to attack the All Blacks through their classy 10-12-15 combination of Super Rugby's Waratahs trio Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau - together for the first time at international level.

"Our challenge is to hang on to it. If we're going to run the ball, hang on to it and back our skills because the quality of work these guys have done," Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne said.

"I think you're going to see a pretty frenetic game tomorrow."

The Wallabies had a shock home loss to Scotland in June and are coming off a dreadful Super Rugby season where Australian sides were 0-26 against Kiwi opposition.

A season of problems on and off the pitch culminated with the contentious axing of Perth's Western Force last week.

There are three Force players - Adam Coleman, debutant Curtis Rona and Tatafu Polota-Nau - in the matchday Wallabies squad.

Agence France-Presse

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