Sport Union Wallabies ready, but playing down chance of breaking Eden Park hoodoo

Wallabies ready, but playing down chance of breaking Eden Park hoodoo

Michael Cheika congratulates James O'Connor after a successful return to the team. Photo: Getty
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The Wallabies only have to rewind four years for a reminder of how a good win can quickly turn sour as they look ahead to the Bledisloe Cup decider.

The Australians opened the door to Bledisloe Cup glory, which they haven’t tasted for 17 years, with a crushing 47-26 win over the All Blacks in Perth on Saturday night.

The six-try victory equalled their biggest-ever winning margin against New Zealand.

But to bring back the Bledisloe they must crack their first win since 1986 at Auckland’s Eden Park – Australia’s rugby graveyard.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika wanted to keep a lid on the achievement.

“We are all pumped, but all we’ve done is bought ourselves a ticket to Auckland. That’s it,” Cheika said.

“It’s a great atmosphere and great for the players to get the win. But in the bigger scheme of things that’s what we’ve got ourselves – a ticket to go there and take the opportunity that we’re going to get given there.

Let’s get on to the next thing – this is one game in a progression that we’re going to put together this year.’’

In 2015, the Wallabies opened with a 27-19 win in Sydney and talk swirled of their big chance of a breakthrough at Eden Park.

But the All Blacks responded as they always seem to do with a 41-13 scoreline to set themselves on course for Rugby World Cup glory.

Before that second Test Cheika made sweeping changes including benching star flanker David Pocock and starting mercurial five-eighth Quade Cooper.

The Kiwis lifted and the Wallabies selections backfired.

Cheika wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would again experiment, with only two Tests remaining before next month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

“It’s too far long ago now,” he said when asked if what he learnt in 2015 would affect preparations for next Saturday.

“There’s selectors as well now so we’ll go into that meeting and go through what we’re thinking.”

Cheika already made some shock selections for the Perth match by including former bad boy James O’Connor at outside centre, in his first start in six years, Nic White ahead of veteran halfback Will Genia, fiery hooker Tolu Latu and Christian Lealiifano first pick at five-eighth.

While it was hard to pick a weak link in the team, those four definitely showed they will be hard to dislodge.

Cheika didn’t want to single out anyone for praise.

“I didn’t see it as one guy who really stood out,” Cheika said.

“There were different things happening all the time, so you need the combination of players to be there.

“We want to build more teamwork and then we can get more connection so it’s a team effort, not one individual.”

All Blacks’ ‘Dumb footy’

Meanwhile, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says Ardie Savea was guilty of “dumb footy” after the flanker gave away a needless penalty in the shock loss.

Hansen was highly critical of his team’s overall lack of discipline, but it was Savea’s brain fade late in the first half that was the hardest to swallow.

Savea maliciously shoved Michael Hooper in the back of the head moments after tackling the Wallabies skipper to the ground.

Hooper reacted angrily, and the referee awarded a penalty to the Wallabies after watching a replay of the incident.

‘‘It’s dumb. It’s dumb footy. We’ve got to be smarter than that.’’

“It hurts everyone. Our change room there is very disappointed because of how we performed, and that’s how it should be,” Hansen said.

Savea’s ill discipline was symptomatic of the All Blacks’ night.

Lock Scott Barrett is facing suspension after being red-carded for his shoulder charge on Hooper.

And the All Blacks had just 22 per cent possession in the first half after conceding six penalties.

“Our discipline was poor,” Hansen said.

“We double piggy backed into the red card, and there were numerous occasions when we got offside when we didn’t need to.

“So they’re all things we’ve got to fix up and look at ourselves.”

Hansen didn’t get drawn into the merits of the red card, with Barrett now having to face the judiciary to find out his fate.

He could be suspended for six weeks over the incident, in which he charged in shoulder first into Hooper’s head.

The All Blacks are also sweating on the availability of Jack Goodhue after the centre suffered a hamstring injury early in the match.

-with AAP

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