Wallabies must throw everything at Bledisloe Cup chance: Gregan

by Emma Greenwood

The last Australian captain to lift the Bledisloe Cup says the Wallabies must throw everything at Saturday's decider at Eden Park rather than tinker with the team ahead of the World Cup.

George Gregan, who has been working this winter with the Wallabies halves and playmakers on skill refinement, said while the World Cup was also important, the team had to remain in the moment and take the rare chance on offer.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has limited opportunities to test his combinations in match situations before naming his World Cup squad on August 23 and could be tempted to make changes to last week's 23, as he did in the same situation in 2015.

The Wallabies last won the Bledisloe in 2002. Photo: Getty Images

But Gregan, who has been in Melbourne this week with the Wallabies, was adamant when asked whether Australia had to throw everything at the All Blacks on Saturday.

"Of course you do - because it's now," Gregan,  the last Wallabies captain to lift the Bledisloe Cup back in 2002, said.

"It's a very important match which you want to be trying to do your best in - which they will do. But you want to get the right result, which is a win."

The Wallabies have not won at Eden Park since 1986 and Gregan said it was important not to give up the rare chance to win the Bledisloe because it was so hard to do.

"The World Cup is (important) too, there's no doubting that, but the World Cup's not this Saturday," he said.

"(The Bledisloe) is a good one because it's hard to win. And they don't like to give it up and we don't want to give it up either.

"It's a big trophy and it means a lot to both countries. It's a special one to have but you've got to work really, really hard to get it."

Former skipper Andrew Slack, the last man to lead the Wallabies to victory at Eden Park, agreed with Gregan.

"I think part of the good performance last week was that everybody who was selected earned their place and deserved to be there and I'm not sure that's always been the case," Slack told AAP.

"I think when you've got a team where everybody can say, 'He deserves to be there', it builds a confidence within the team.

"You know the bloke besides you is going to do their job so if we start fiddling and mucking around with selections again just to experiment, I think it's a backward step.

"You don't play like that and reinvigorate the game and get everyone with a smile on their faces with a reward of not getting a game - I don't buy that."

Gregan was loathe to talk up his role with the Wallabies, stressing his work only complimented what Cheika and his fulltime coaching staff do.

But the importance of his work cannot be underestimated.

Australia has genuine depth in its playmaking ranks and having Nic White and Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano and Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor pushing each other at training as they work with the most capped Wallaby of all time is a boon for the team.

Nic White has been working with Genia since returning to the Wallabies fold. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"It's just fundamentals really, it's with halves, so it's 9s, 10s and playmakers and is just complimentary to what we're doing with Shaun Berne and the coaching group.," Gregan said.

"It's just a philosophy around nailing the fundamentals and everyone understanding what they're trying to do.

"It's not complicated but it's just reinforcing all those really important things that you do.

"I think every sport's similar, if you haven't got good basics, it really impacts on your ability to perform."

Gregan see his job as similar to a golf coach working on a player's swing.


"The players at this level are so good and their instincts are so fantastic that if you can get those fundamentals and those basics nice and consistent then they can play and showcase their full skill set," he said.

"I view it as a golf swing - if it's just a little bit off, it just needs a little correction and then they're away.

"You're never too far away from a really good performance and often it's just tightening up a few little areas and that's ultimately what good coaching and good players do."

Gregan hopes his work will help the Wallabies play instinctive footy.

While heads-up rugby has become a bit of a buzzword as Cheika tests new philosophies ahead of the World Cup and the work of new attack coach Shaun Berne is scrutinized, Gregan insists it's the way the game has always been played - as long as players have the skillset and fitness to back it up.

Wallabies attack coach Shaun Berne at training in Melbourne ahead of this weekend's return Bledisloe clash. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"I'm not a massive fans of that term, playing heads-up, I think the game has always been that way," he said.

"Good players understand that and take the space wherever the space is - and that was showcased last weekend.

"You don't get many opportunities when you play against a team like the All Blacks, so you've just got to trust your instincts and the players around you and I think that was shown last week.

"And they're always going to fight, so you can't get too far ahead of yourself, you can't reflect on something that's just been, you've got to be very present when you play and that requires having good instincts, totally.

"But there's a massive challenge ahead this week."

Being in the moment means Gregan doesn't buy into the Eden Park curse too much.

"Ultimately once the whistle blows it's a whole other game," he said.

"Obviously there's all that history there with the venue but, you saw it at Edgbaston as well (in the first Ashes Test), it can be changed.

"You've just got to perform and got to believe. They're going to respond, the All Blacks but it comes back to basics.

"(The Wallabies) tackling was very good last weekend, their work around the breakdown was very good, you've just got to do that (again) and then keep playing.

"You've got to keep playing against the All Blacks, you never just put the cue in the rack, so to speak, you've actually got to keep playing and that's got to be the attitude."

And the Wallabies had to forget about what happened in Perth last week.

"Last week's last week. It's another challenge now and I was really impressed by the way this team responded after the win," Gregan said.

"They've just given themselves an opportunity. Everything lies ahead now."