Wallabies Annouce Squad Ahead of Bledisloe Opener
The Wallabies will go into Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks in Auckland with the same starting 15 that dispatched the Springboks a fortnight ago.
While the starting side remains the same, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has made three changes to the bench, bringing in Luke Burgess, Lachie Turner and Dan Vickerman.
Burgess returns to the Wallabies bench in place of Nick Phipps after recovering from a hand injury, while Turner and Vickerman have forced their way into the side following some impressive displays at club rugby level.
The changes on the bench means the Wallabies will be carrying the traditional four forwards and three backs, wheras against South Africa they opted for five forwards on the bench.
“Burgess and Turner have both worked their way back into contention and have shown they are ready to go, while Vickerman really stepped up training last week, and reinforced that for Sydney Uni on the weekend and this is contest that we believe he is well suited to,” Deans said.
“For the South Africans, it is physicality first, second and third. The All Blacks employ more width and rely on speed of recycle and movement.
“They play the game wider and faster, which is why the extra speed and additional backline resources are required on the bench.”
Much has been made about the Wallabies poor record at Eden Park (They haven’t won their since 1986), however Deans said it was about now, rather than history.
“The All Blacks do draw strength from their record at the ground, but playing at Eden Park is not something to be feared. It’s a challenge and an opportunity to be embraced and enjoyed,” he said.
“A lot of visiting teams will be aspiring to achieve something special at Eden Park this year (Eden Park will host the rugby World Cup final). This weekend, we’re the lucky ones, we get first crack.”
A confident Wallabies outfit has been talking up their chances of breaking the Eden Park hoodoo throughout the week which prompted an angry response from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
“The Wallabies aren’t in awe of us, they probably don’t even respect us, you’ve only got to read what they’ve got to say,” Hansen said.
Earlier in the week Wallabies Fullback Kurtley Beale said he thought the Wallabies could ‘tear any team apart’ while fly-half Quade Cooper was quoted as saying ‘we can look at the caninet and have a tri-nations, Bledisloe…and a World Cup’.
However Hansen maintains that the All Blacks will not be using the Wallabies comments as motivations.
“We have our own motivation. We don’t need anyone else to motivate us, the black jersey motivates our players and has done for centuries and will continue to because it’s such an important jersey,” he said.
“Keeping this place (Eden Park) a fortress is pretty important. If that’s where they’re going to play the World Cup final that we want to be in it and, of course, we want to win it.”
While Deans has gone for stability in his line up, Hansen has opted to make a total of seven changes.
Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Kieran Read, Hosea Gear and Keven Mealamu will all make their first test appearances of the year, while Piri Weepu and Sitiveni Sivivatu also return to the side.
“It’s game one of a two match Bledisloe Cup series involving teams ranked number one and two in the world. It’s a hugely important test and is going to be a massive challenge, but we are looking forward to that,” Hansen said.
Wallabies Line Up
15. Kurtley Beale 14. James O’Connor 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper 12. Pat McCabe 11. Digby Ioane 10. Quade Cooper 9. Will Genia 8. Ben McCalman 7. David Pocock 6. Rocky Elsom (Captain) 5. Jams Horwill 4. Rob Simmons 3. Ben Alexander 2. Stephen Moore 1. Sekope Kepu. Reserves – 16. Saia Fainga’a 17. Pek Cowan 18. Dan Vickermann 19. Scott Higginbotham 20. Luke Burgess 21. Anthony Fainga’a 22. Lachie Turner
All Blacks Line Up
15. Mils Muliaina 14. Sitiveni Sivivatu 13. Conrad Smith 12. Ma’a Nonu 11. Hosea Gear 10. Dan Carter 9. Piri Weepu 8. Kieran Read 7. Richie McCaw (Captain) 6. Jerome Kaino 5. Ali Williams 4. Brad Thorn 3. Owen Franks 2. Keven Mealamu 1. Wyatt Crockett. Reserves – 16. Andrew Hore 17. Ben Franks 18. Sam Whitelock 19. Adam Thomson 20. Andy Ellis 21. Colin Slade 22. Sonny Bill Williams
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