Australia coach Ewen McKenzie is optimistic about his team’s chances of winning at Eden Park for the first time since 1986 in next weekend’s rematch with the All Blacks.
The Wallabies’ task of retrieving the Bledisloe Cup has become even tougher after drawing their opening match with the All Blacks in Sydney.
Australia ended the world champions’ 17-match winning run with a fighting 12-12 draw in the Rugby Championship but they must now win in Auckland and then win again in the third match of the series in Brisbane on October 18 to end 12 years in the Bledisloe Cup wilderness.
Although the Australians have not beaten the All Blacks in eight Tests since their last win three years ago in Brisbane, skipper Michael Hooper is feeling positive.
“We are in the same position we were before tonight’s game,” Hooper said at the post-match media conference Saturday.
“We have to get two wins to get this Cup. It’s certainly a good challenge and there’s a bit of momentum from tonight.
“For me to go to Eden Park and have another shot at them is a fantastic opportunity.”
Under McKenzie, the Wallabies have had some close defeats to the All Blacks leading up to the latest draw, and he believes the gap between thefierce trans-Tasman rivals is closing.
“It’s no easy task beating them. We didn’t get the job done tonight but we’re getting closer every time,” McKenzie told reporters after the Sydney game.
“The conditions were bit of a leveller out there but I thought we were in the game the whole time so we’ve narrowed the scoreline.
“But we haven’t beaten them so for us to win the Bledisloe we have to win two games. So the formula for us in the equation hasn’t changed so we’ll just keep at it.”
Hooper said he was encouraged by the Wallabies’ up tempo game which had the All Blacks defence under pressure for most of the second half after trailing 9-3 at half-time.
“Guys are coming on and making an impact,” he said. “(Scott) Higginbotham, (Nick) Phipps and (Bernard) Foley came off the bench and wanted to play an up tempo style of game.
“That back end of the half was positive in that way. We’ve got guys who can finish off the game especially against a team like the All Blacks, who are notoriously strong finishers and I think we came out on top there.”
McKenzie, who coached the Reds to the 2011 Super Rugby title, sees technical improvements in the Wallabies.
“The All Blacks put pressure on you. We failed in execution at different points of the game, there were a couple of lineout lifts and things like that,” he said.
“It happens when you are under the pump but I thought we put them under pressure as well, so at times we might have got a little ahead of ourselves.
“I think we were much more composed in the second half and they kicked particularly well in the first half and put us under pressure, most of our errors were in the first half and we able to turn that around.”
The All Blacks haven’t lost against all comers to Eden Park in 32 Tests since falling 23-20 to France and drawing 18-18 with South Africa in 1994.
“We’ll hear all week about the history, but that’s history, you know, and we’re not living in the past,” McKenzie said on Sunday.
“Not many in the team were involved in the history of Eden Park.
“There’s been plenty of provincial success there from the different (Australian Super Rugby) teams, so they have actually won there.”
The last time the Wallabies won at Eden Park legends David Campese, Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones and captain Andrew Slack orchestrated a 22-9 victory in 1986.
“It’s a fantastic motivator. So the more you write about it, the better I’ll feel about it because I’ll be telling the players,” McKenzie said.
“If you grab little bits of history along the way, that’s a significant team that can do that.
“So bring it on. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.”
- Planet Rugby