Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had one instruction for new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie ahead of today’s blockbuster Bledisloe Cup clash.
Hooper confident of Bledisloe
ScoMo is hoping Dave Rennie can turn the Wallabies' fortunes around.
Welcome to our live coverage of the year’s first Bledisloe Cup Test between the Wallabies and All Blacks.
The game is being played in Wellington and is scheduled to start at 2pm AEDT. You can watch it live on Fox Sports and Kayo, as well as on Channel 10.
It’s a massive occasion for the Wallabies, who are being coached for the first time by Kiwi newcomer Dave Rennie, who will be hoping to end the Aussies’ 18-year Bledisloe drought.
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ScoMo's blunt message for Wallabies' new Kiwi coach
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie not to “stuff it up” in a light-hearted message of support ahead of their clash with the All Blacks.
Both teams have new coaches with Ian Foster at the helm of New Zealand and Rennie, a New Zealander, in charge of Australia.
“No pressure mate, just don’t stuff it up,” Morrison told Rennie jokingly in a video “from the boss” that the Wallabies posted on Twitter.
“Seriously, Dave’s new leadership marks what I think is a new start for a new era of the Wallabies,” the Prime Minister added.
“An era that will be defined as much by the culture of that team that is created both on the field and off the field.”
Morrison is known as a rugby league fan and is often seen in the stands watching his beloved Cronulla Sharks team in Sydney.
But he also follows the 15-man game. “You know it’s been a long time since we won in New Zealand. I was actually there when that happened,” he said.
“Who can forget John Eales’ last-minute penalty in Wellington in 2000? Or Matt Burke’s heroics at Dunedin the following year?
“These moments are part of Australia’s rugby folklore.”
D-Day arrives after build up of bad blood
New Zealand and Australia on Sunday will play the first rugby Test since the coronavirus pandemic halted international fixtures and set off a war of words between the two sides.
The Bledisloe Cup clash in Wellington ends a year on the sidelines for both teams, who last played at the World Cup in Japan. The last Test rugby worldwide was at the suspended Six Nations in March.
“It’s a new era,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper declared. “We’re lucky that we get to kick off international Tests again and what a way to do it with the Bledisloe.”
With 30,000 fans expected, and face masks not compulsory in COVID-contained New Zealand, Hooper noted that after limited crowds at Super Rugby in Australia this year, it was “25,000 more than we’ve been used to, thanks to COVID”.
Months of bickering have brought relations to their “lowest ebb”, according to Australian rugby boss Hamish McLennan, after New Zealand proposed leaving out up to three of Australia’s teams from a revamped Super Rugby competition.
Then followed a row over hosting the Rugby Championship, which went Australia’s way, and culminated in New Zealand blaming their closest neighbours for a Rugby Championship draw that would have meant the All Blacks being in quarantine for Christmas.
While the date of the final match was eventually changed to meet the All Blacks’ Christmas wish, it came at a reported financial cost for New Zealand.
In the countdown to today’s kick-off, when it seemed that tensions had calmed, there has been speculation New Zealand would turn up the heat again by performing their provocative “Kapa o Pango” pre-match haka instead of the traditional “Ka Mate”.
“Kapa o Pango” ends with a movement interpreted by many as a throat-slitting gesture, although New Zealand’s indigenous Maori say it represents drawing the breath of life into the heart and lungs.
When the national anthems and haka are done, it will be left to the on-field combatants to resolve their differences.
Australia’s incoming coach, New Zealander Dave Rennie, is getting his first taste of Test rugby and named three uncapped players in his starting side, while promising a tactical kicking approach rather than the running game of his predecessor Michael Cheika.
While Rennie’s Test credentials are unknown, his background includes replacing Foster as head coach of a struggling Waikato Chiefs in 2012 and immediately winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
He is also credited with unearthing a young Sam Cane, who made his Chiefs and All Blacks debuts in 2012 and is now the All Blacks captain.
They share a relationship which Cane said has given him a good insight into what to expect from the Wallabies who will “fight for every inch”.
“It’s going to be a heck of a Test match… They’re very physical, it’ll be fast, it’ll test us physically and mentally,” said Cane.
After two weeks living and training in quarantine in Christchurch, the Wallabies flew to Wellington on the eve of the Test, with Hooper, who is playing 100th Test, saying “we’re ready” despite the unusual build-up.
“Who’d have thought, at one point, any of us would be playing Test rugby this year. We’re all pumped,” he said.
WALLABIES: 1. James Slipper 2. Folau Fainga’a 3. Taniela Tupou 4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 5. Matt Philip 6. Harry Wilson 7. Michael Hooper (c) 8. Pete Samu 9. Nic White 10. James O’Connor 11. Marika Koroibete 12. Matt To’omua 13. Hunter Paisami 14. Filipo Daugunu 15. Tom Banks
Reserves: 16. Jordan Uelese 17. Scott Sio 18. Allan Alaalatoa 19. Rob Simmons 20. Rob Valetini 21. Jake Gordon 22. Noah Lolesio 23. Reece Hodge
ALL BLACKS: 1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor 3. Ofa Tuungafasi 4. Patrick Tuipulotu 5. Sam Whitelock 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Sam Cane (c) 8. Ardie Savea 9. Aaron Smith 10. Richie Mo'unga 11. George Bridge 12. Jack Goodhue 13. Rieko Ioane 14. Jordie Barrett 15. Damian McKenzie
Reserves: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'i, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke
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