Wallabies must believe they will win Bledisloe: Mitchell

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Drew Mitchell remembers the exact moment he realised just how different Bledisloe Cup week is to any other week.

It was 2005 and Mitchell, then 21, had made his debut from the bench the week prior against the Springboks, in Sydney.

The whispers that Chris Latham wouldn't be fit to play were confirmed and that meant it was Mitchell's time to be thrown head first into the furnace.

He was named at fullback, a position he had very little experience playing at Super Rugby level, given he was playing alongside Latham for the Reds as well.

Not long after the team was named, All Blacks skipper Tana Umaga issued a warning firmly in Mitchell's direction.

"It was exciting as much as it was nerve-wracking, to be fair," Mitchell told RUGBY.com.au.

Mitchell remembers his first Test against the All Blacks well. Photo: Getty Images"Tana Umaga was the captain of the All Blacks at the time and he made reference to targeting me in the lead up to that Test.

"They were going to test me out and see where I was at.

"I ended up scoring a try about 20 minutes into the game or so and that was when the pressure, in my mind, was eased a bit."

Mitchell played in 15 Tests against the Kiwis for just two wins between 2005 and 2015 but that doesn't mean any team he featured in lacked belief.

The crucial part of beating the All Blacks, according to Mitchell, is not only believing that you can win, but believing that you will win.

"While we haven't had the results in the last 10 to 15 years, each time I have gone into a Bledisloe there has been genuine belief in the squad," he said.

"The belief that the boys need to have going into this weekend isn't that they can win, it's that they will win.

"It's a small thing when you say it like that but it's a big shift in mindset - that you can and that you will.

"You can get that in many different ways.

"You can get it from results, you can get it from the way you train, the camaraderie you have in the group, belief in your coaching staff, belief from your fans, family and friends.

"There has always been belief there, it's just about transferring that belief in those crucial moments in pressure situations when you have to make a decision."

The lack of success at Bledisloe Cup time doesn't alter Mitchell's view of the famous rivalry, one that he believes is beautifully unique.

"There is an intense rivalry between the two nations but there is also a lot of respect," he said.

"They're our closest rivals in location but it's unique because we have each others backs in times of need.

"But then it comes to the sporting field and that is put aside and we just go at each other."

Then there is the build up, which is unlike any other on the Australian rugby calendar.

"I love it all," Mitchell said.

 World Cup Tests against the All Blacks take on a different feel. Photo: Getty Images"Getting to the games, watching everyone in their colours, it's the biggest week we have on the Australian rugby calendar."

In the decade Mitchell formed part of the furniture in the Wallabies fold, no match has held this much significance.

Australian rugby is undoubtedly struggling for the eyes and ears of the fans, disgruntled by the SANZAAR saga that has engulfed the code all year.

A win against the All Blacks, giving the Wallabies hope of lifting the Bledisloe once more, would change the sentiment dramatically.

"From the outside, there is probably more importance put on it," Mitchell said.

"From a media point of view and from some of the fans, who are disgruntled at the moment.

"But there is always a huge responsibility when you're wearing that jersey to go out there and win.

"We're the national team and with that comes a great responsibility to go out there and perform to our best.

"I don't think internally the team should or will be feeling that type of pressure.

"But given the current state of rugby in Australia, in the eye of the public, the perception of the game and the current state that it is in could change quite significantly with a result like this."