Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has named an unchanged line-up for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup encounter, convinced the team that drew 12-all in the series opener in Sydney can topple the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress.
McKenzie resisted calls to reinstate Bernard Foley at five-eighth to retain Kurtley Beale as Australia’s chief playmaker as the Wallabies bid to break their 28-year drought in Auckland.
Beale had an influential game in the first Test, kicking all of Australia’s points and McKenzie is backing the mercurial match-winner to continue sparking the Wallabies attack in more favourable conditions this weekend.
“We were impressed with the pressure we were able to apply in the opening Test and, despite some errors, were pleased with the intent of the group to continue attacking despite the poor weather conditions,” McKenzie said on Tuesday.
“I imagine both teams are excited by the prospect of a dry evening in Auckland on Saturday night, which will have an influence on the way the game is played.
“For us, we know we need to be more clinical in certain areas, but overall we feel the same group of guys deserve the opportunity to have another crack.”
Despite sticking with the same 23-man squad from last week, McKenzie said the selection process was tough.
“While we didn’t quite get there on Saturday night, I do know that we’ve made good progress since our first Test against New Zealand a year ago,” he said.
“That gives us some confidence heading into what will be an extremely tough challenge in Auckland.”
After the Sydney stalemate ended New Zealand’s 17-game winning streak, the Wallabies’ next challenge is to halt the All Blacks’ 14-Test run against them at Eden park.
Australia haven’t tasted success at the venue since 1986, while the All Blacks haven’t lost in 20 years and 32 Tests at their spiritual home.
But the Wallabies aren’t daunted by the Eden Park hoodoo.
“Recent results would suggest Eden Park hasn’t been a happy place for Australia and already this week we’ve seen that not many people are giving us a chance in Auckland,” McKenzie said.
“Sporting records are there to be broken and we’ll look forward to the opportunity of playing the All Blacks in their own backyard on Saturday night.”
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Nic White, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper. Reserves: James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani.