While the Wallabies are dreaming of ending a 20-year Bledisloe Cup drought, there’s a flipside. Imagine being the All Blacks skipper who sees the trophy slip through the fingers for the first time in two decades.
Amidst a season of inconsistent performances from the Kiwis there is a belief in these parts that the Wallabies might be able to finally muster a breakthrough win – although the two Test series does them few favours.
All Blacks captain Sam Cane admits his team is motivated by fear of losing and granting Australia something they cherish.
“Winning and losing are both strong motivators but in different ways,” Cane said on Wednesday in Melbourne.
“Yeah there’s a fear of losing it, there’s the pressure, but you look at that in a positive spin too, it’s something that motivates us to make sure it’s not on our watch.
“The way we view it is no one’s holding the trophy, when it comes up for grabs again each year it’s on the line. And this year both teams have a good chance of winning it, so it’s up to us to get out there and take it.”
Cane said he wasn’t aware of an increase in Wallaby confidence, and to be fair it has come from outside the Australian camp.
A year ago, the Wallabies got a taste of how the All Blacks will prey on any little nugget when they went to town on Andrew Kellaway for suggesting that they were losing their aura in the eyes of the Australian players.
This time Marika Koroibete has said the Australians will need to bring brutality – and that was absorbed by the New Zealanders.
“I read something in the media they’re going to bring their brutality, so that’s what we’ll expect,” said All Black Caleb Clarke.
“I’ve had a look at their team and we saw big ball-runners, so it’s going to be a lot of running rugby under the roof.”
“The thing about the Aussies, it doesn’t matter what’s going on, they’ve always got plenty of confidence in themselves and their ability, and they’ve shown that time and time again in how they can front up,” said Cane.
“There’s been some absolute classic matches in games that I’ve been involved in that go right down to the wire. And I expect the intensity to be right up there tomorrow night, right from the outset. I think it will be a brutal encounter and we’re ready for it.”
Cane’s performances have been part of the All Blacks problems this season but he and the team returned to form with the resounding 53-3 win over Argentina.
“It’s nice to put out a performance, not just as a team, but as an individual, that you’re proud of,” Cane said. “The response and the challenge is to go again.
“But it’s certainly time to back it up. We haven’t been pleased with our inconsistencies this year and with a trophy like this on the line over here, it’s a tough place to play Aussie, in Australia.
“We haven’t always had great success here. And you know how being a two-match series compared to a three, this first one is critical.”
The tumultuous year that nearly cost Ian Foster his job has settled, for now, after the win over Argentina.
“There’s certainly a different feel but there’s still that deep desire to want to back it up because it’s only one performance,” said Cane. “There’s a huge desire and hunger to want to put out another one.”
With Ardie Savea missing from the match for personal reasons, Hoskins Sotutu starts at No.8 and Scott Barrett comes into the back row, a battleground of great intrigue as the Wallabies replaced Fraser McReight with Pete Samu for a rare start at No.7.
Cane said the Wallabies are “pretty good to be honest.
“They’ve got a very good forward pack, they’ve had lots of success with their driving maul, and when they get humming they can score points quickly.
“They’ve picked up a loose forward trio that are all good strong ball carriers and we’re anticipating the game to be quite physical.
“The breakdowns are always important but often the result of a breakdown is how well the team is playing on top in terms of getting over the gain line with carries. It’s our job to nullify that and put it back over them.”
Rugby – The Roar