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All Blacks skipper 'prickly' on eve of crunch Wallabies Test

All Blacks skipper 'prickly' on eve of crunch Wallabies Test

RUGBY UNION: All Blacks captain Kieran Read warned he was in a “prickly” mood Friday as he demanded a marked improvement in discipline and defence for today’s Bledisloe Cup decider against the Wallabies in Auckland.

Rugby
By AFP

Saturday 17 August 2019, 01:18PM


At stake is not only the All Blacks’ 16-year grip on the cup, but also the defence of a phenomenal record at Eden Park where they have not been beaten in 42 Tests since 1994.

Another Australian triumph would also mark the first time since 2011 that the All Blacks have lost two matches in a row and, after their recent draw with South Africa, it would be the first time in 260 Tests since 1998 they have gone three successive matches without a win.

Wallabies’ coach Michael Cheika has stuck with his winning formula from Sydney a week ago, while the All Blacks are still tinkering with their preferred line-up.

Read cut a stern figure as he led the All Blacks through the captain's run pre-game training session on Friday.

Referring to his “prickly nature”, the All Blacks skipper said: “If you don’t do that you’re not going to get a response.

“It’s a do-or-die game… it’s our discipline and our ability to defend early that's going to be key. They put pressure on us through that last week so we have to respond.”

Coach Steve Hansen, who will be marking his 100th Test in charge of the All Blacks, has been emphatic in spelling out his priorities with the World Cup number one and then the Bledisloe, which he suggested was a learning exercise.

“They’re going to test our resolve to step up to the plate and we’ll learn a lot out of it and march on to the next occasion,” he said.

Fortress Eden Park

The Wallabies have not won at Eden Park in 18 games over the past 33 years, a dismal statistic which coach Michael Cheika has turned into a challenge.

“There’s no point in hiding from it,” he said.

“We know that that’s a big challenge but if you want to make change, one person has got to say, ‘Okay, this is going to change’. Then the next person will join in and the next person will join in.

“You’re allowed to understand the history of the event and also the game, the trophy and also the venue, to make it ultra-important.”

Despite being outplayed last week, Hansen has insisted the situation was like 2015 when the All Blacks were well beaten in Sydney and bounced back with a five-tries-to-one victory in Auckland.

Australia, however, made sweeping changes to their line-up between the Tests four years ago while Cheika this time has made only one, with Adam Coleman in for the injured Rory Arnold.

Hansen has made five changes including the axing of the battle-hardened Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane.

He used the word “dumped” but also said that with an eye on the World Cup they would probably have been rested anyway to see how replacement wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece, along with prop Nepo Laulala, handle a pressure game.

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The Wallabies last beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2001, when they sneaked home 24-23 in Dunedin.

Get Carter

The All Blacks have drafted in legendary fly-half Dan Carter to calm any nerves among the faltering world champions ahead of today’s Bledisloe Cup decider against Australia.

A shock 47-26 loss to the Wallabies has rattled the All Blacks, calling into question their experimental strategy of fielding two playmakers in Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said Carter joined the New Zealanders at training in Auckland on Tuesday to offer advice to Barrett and Mo’unga.

The 37-year-old, who retired from internationals in 2015, has a wealth of experience after a stellar 112-Test career that included winning two World Cups and three World Rugby player of the year awards.

“I’m actually keen to get him in to chat to our playmakers,” Foster told allbacks.com.

“He’s got a lot of World Cup experience and I just wanted to really have him around, again to talk to the likes of Beaudy and Richie about what it’s like driving a team through a World Cup campaign where expectations are high.

“Who better to tell that story than him.”

Foster has talked up the need for discipline if New Zealand are to retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 17th year and defeat Australia again at an Eden Park venue where the Wallabies have not won since 1986.

Scott Barrett’s red card for a shoulder charge cost the All Blacks any chance of victory in Perth and saw the lock suspended for three weeks.

Despite that setback, former All Black Ian Jones called for fire and brimstone from the men in black in Auckland, saying they had to prove a point by muscling up to the Wallabies.

“They’ve got to physically go straight and knock these guys around and get into that zone,” Jones told Radio Sport.

“(Show them) this is the fortress, this is All Black rugby, this is how we’re going to beat these Wallabies up, and just smack them around in that regard.”

The 79-Test veteran said New Zealand could not expect Eden Park’s intimidation factor to affect the fired-up Australians.

“They can’t just rely on this wonderful Eden Park factor, they’ll have to front up to themselves,” he said.

“Do I expect the Wallabies to be able to perform at the level again? Yes… we have to dampen that, we have to physically get into them, knock them around and show them who’s boss.”

 

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