Ewen McKenzie is sharpening his axe, forecasting changes to the Wallabies side massacred by the All Blacks at Eden Park.
Injuries to hooker Nathan Charles and winger Pat McCabe will bring at least two new selections but more are in the offing following Saturday night’s 50-21 drubbing.
McKenzie confirmed he would look closely at promoting several squad members “itching to get a go” for Australia’s next Rugby Championship clash, against South Africa in Perth on Saturday week.
He earmarked powerful Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani for a return that would likely see Adam Ashley-Cooper move back to the wing spot left vacant by McCabe (neck).
Halfback Nic White is under immense pressure from Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley is also demanding a recall, while McKenzie is considering tinkering with his outmuscled pack.
James Horwill and Ben McCalman are two abrasive forwards waiting in the wings and set to be granted auditions in next Sunday’s NRC match in Perth between the Perth Spirit and Brisbane City.
Will Skelton, Scott Higginbotham and Ben Alexander all came off the bench as New Zealand ran up a 44-point scoreline by the 60-minute mark in Auckland.
“I said it last week, there are some good players who aren’t playing so we’ll revisit that,” McKenzie said on Sunday.
“Selection is a one-game contract. We don’t tend to change things on one game but we like to see improvement and there’s good players missing out.
“I’ll give you an example, Kuridrani came on and did a good job at the back end of the game.
“There’s players itching to get a go and we recognise that.”
NSW Waratahs playmaker Foley has done nothing wrong all year and provides a major quandry to McKenzie after Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua failed to fire in their two games together at 10 and 12.
The Wallabies coach’s biggest disappointment was his side’s passiveness in defence – allowing quick, front-foot ball to the hosts – and laxity in reacting to their own turnovers.
Both Julian Savea and Kieran Read finished breakout tries from mistakes while Australia was hot on attack.
A total of 19 tackles were missed as the All Blacks split the defensive line for nine breaks.
“I felt we were a metre off the pace in attack and defence the whole way,” McKenzie said.
It’s now been 12 years since Australia last retained the Bledisloe Cup but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said he never got tired of holding it up.
The pressure is on the Wallabies, unbeaten in their previous eight Tests, to immediately bounce back in the same way the All Blacks did from the 12-12 draw in Bledisloe I.
“We have to respond after that,” McKenzie said. “We’ve enjoyed winning over the last period of time and we’ve been competitive so it was a massive disappointment.
“We created some expectation there and it’s not as though we came up short, we came up a long way short.”