Wallabies to go head-to-head in pre-Bledisloe trial match

The Rugby Championship
by Iain Payten

The Wallabies will attempt to prevent another slow start in the Bledisloe Cup by playing a trial match against a Super Rugby all-stars team at Leichhardt Oval next Friday night.

In a sharp break from tradition, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said the game had been added to the pre-Bledisloe preparation to to get his players more game time between the end of Super Rugby and taking on the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 18.

Cheika will select a side from the Wallabies squad currently training in Sydney - Waratahs players will not be considered - and they will take on a Super Rugby Selection side,  which will also feature Wallaby squad members, Super Rugby players preparing for NRC duties and potentially club players as well.

The Super Rugby side will be run by Aussie sevens coaches Tim Walsh and John Manenti, assisted by Rebels assistant Kevin Foote.

The match will be free to the public at Leichhardt Oval at 6.45pm and will be streamed live on RUGBY.com.au.

Last year the Wallabies went into the opening Bledisloe Cup game with most having not played rugby for at least a month.

They were hammered early by the Kiwis, and trailed 54-6, before rallying to finish at 54-34. The Wallabies improved quickly thereafter, and almost beat the Kiwis a week later in Dunedin.

“We were keen to have more Super Rugby teams playing for longer, obviously, and if we look at the last two years we just want to  keep the intensity of footy up," Cheika said.

“Spending five weeks on the sideline before a Bledisloe Test match is not what we want ideally. We want guys to play footy.

“It’s not just about the contact, because you can get all that in training. But just the little things. The pressure in front of a crowd, the referee telling you what to do, the dressing room build up, all  those things. The mental side of footy."

The Wallabies' trial brings them into line with the All Blacks, who have played  a "game of three halves" trial for many years in the lead-in to the Bledisloe Cup.

History says a trial is a good idea. The Wallabies have done done much better against the All Blacks  in the last decade when they're not playing them in their very first game of a campaign.

In 2007 the Wallabies beat the Kiwis 20-15 in Melbourne after already  playing four Tests. In 2008 they won in Sydney after beating South Africa a week earlier.

In 2010 and in 2011 Australia prevailed over New Zealand late in the season, and in 2015 the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in Sydney after they had played South Africa and Argentina in an altered World Cup-year schedule.

Last year the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in Brisbane in the third game of the series.

The best result for the Wallabies first-up against the All Blacks in Sydney was a 12-all draw in 2014, and that was after the Waratahs had won the Super Rugby final a few weeks earlier

Cheika said last year he wasn't convinced a warm-up game would fix the Wallabies' slow-start problems but he now concedes the trial is worth a crack..

The Wallabies trial match will be free entry at Leichhardt Oval on Friday August 3, kick-off 6.45pm. Watch the LIVE stream on RUGBY.com.au.