Finegan: Repeat 2012 and break the record

by Owen Finegan

The last Wallabies to win at Eden Park had a 30th anniversary lunch this week, celebrating that feat that broke 37 years of futility, attempting to win the Bledisloe on Kiwi soil.

This 2016 Wallabies team will need to complete a similarly rare feat and finally claim an Eden Park victory, but it will take everything they have.

I’m no pessimist but I have seen firsthand the extra centimetres added to the All Blacks when they’re playing at Eden Park, a ground that deserves the ‘graveyard’ tag more than most.

Last year’ 41-13 demolition is still acutely fresh in my memory, having been there as a spectator just a week after presenting the jerseys to an ultimately victorious team in Sydney.
The Wallabies have had a 30-year drought at Eden Park. Photo: Getty ImagesEven then, I expected little more than a narrow defeat for the Wallabies, such is the power of the Auckland aura.

This weekend, Michael Cheika’s men have little reason to be cocky but they need to draw on some confidence and fearlessness if they want to overcome their nemesis.

Play with the ball in hand, force the All Blacks to work hard in defence and try to emulate the 2012 achievement that saw the Wallabies end New Zealand’s last world record run.

In a way it seems like Michael Cheika has taken that mentality in picking his team, putting out a young backline, anchored by a new Bernard Foley-Reece Hodge combination.

Cheika is giving Hodge, and Henry Speight in turn, a chance to prove themselves in the most fiery of cauldrons, but playing in positions with which they are familiar.

Hodge’s consistency in defence must improve against Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty, who have proven how damaging they are on the counter-attack already this season.

While the inexperienced backline might be a talking point, the Wallabies more generally need to watch that their aggression doesn’t spill over into ill-discipline, but still asserts their intent on the match.

There won’t be any opportunity to switch off at Eden Park, only an 80-minute effort will do, after lapses were costly in both Sydney and Wellington.
Foley had 62 caps for Ireland. Photo: Getty ImagesOn a note far away from the Bledisloe arena, this week rugby lost one of its greatest, in Irish legend Anthony Foley.

He was a no nonsense player whom I will never forget, after dislocating my shoulder attempting to bring him down in a Test.

I’m sure that Jonah Lomu, Jerry Collins and ‘Axel’ will be reunited and playing the game they all loved in heaven.

A former Captain of the ACT Brumbies, Owen Finegan played 90 matches for the Brumbies and 56 Tests for the Wallabies. He is currently the CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project Australia.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.