No sweeping statements, no bullish intent: Why the Wallabies won't get swept up in Bledisloe buzz

International
by Christy Doran

No unfounded statements, no bullish intent, only a "challenge" and an "opportunity" to take it to the All Blacks on their own soil, end the hoodoo and keep the Bledisloe Cup alive.

That's how Wallabies captain Michael Hooper responded when asked about Eden Park on the eve of Bledisloe II.

"I feel great about the opportunity that it presents us," Hooper responded following his side's captain's run at Eden Park, when asked about how he views the venue.

"It (the match) wasn’t a certainty even two weeks ago - it was unsure we’d be here - playing this game and I’m thankful we are." 

Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE

Hooper has seen this script too often before. Just when the Wallabies think they are in with a chance to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks let their actions on the field do the talking and deliver a statement of their own.

The Wallabies arrived at Eden Park on the back of home wins in 2015 and 2019 needing only a draw to win back the Cup for the first time since 2002, but on each occasion were sent packing in the most unceremonious fashion.

In truth, the Wallabies have been sent packing every year for the past 34 years - a losing streak that stands at 19 Tests against the All Blacks.

But during a dry and straight press conference, Hooper, for just a split moment, showed how excited he is to try and break that streak.

Reminded by a reporter that he's always enjoyed a "challenge", Hooper was asked whether the Eden Park Bledisloe fixture was his favourite Test of the year. 

After initially playing a straight bat to the question, Hooper's inner-passion revealed itself.

"It’s pretty special to play any Test," he said.

"The Kiwis have been the benchmark for so long - an outstanding team - and we get the challenge to play them at their home.

"I’m pretty amped for it, I’m not going to lie," he quipped.

Nor are the Wallabies the only international side that have struggled at Eden Park.

The All Blacks haven't been beaten there since the French ambushed them in 1994, which also happened to be the last time they played a Test at Eden Park on a Sunday.

One of the few figures within the Wallabies camp that has had some success at the venue is new coach Dave Rennie.

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The highly respected coach - who should not have been lost to New Zealand rugby and coaching the Wallabies, according to Sir Graham Henry - didn't lose once there during his six-year reign at the Chiefs.

Rennie knows Test footy is a "different cup of tea", but he also quite rightly pointed out that at some stage that streak was going to end.

“At some stage the All Blacks are going to lose a game at Eden Park, why not this Sunday?" he said.

Hooper said that Rennie hadn't provided any foolproof formula but attempted to play down the mystique of the venue.

"He hasn’t called upon too much of his time there at the Chiefs but what we do know is it’s a great opportunity for us at Eden Park," he said.

"It is the same sized oval as last week, albeit in a different place and a full stadium which is so exciting.

"It’s a great opportunity for our team and a challenge for us this week which we’re pretty keen for at 4 O’clock (2pm AEDT) tomorrow.

"I’m sure Dave is too. It probably sucks more for the staff that they can’t actually take the field and have to go up into the box. We’re the lucky ones that get to run out on the deck tomorrow."

LISTEN UP! Wallabies half-back Nic White joins host Nick McArdle, former Australian fullback Greg Martin and RUGBY.com.au journalist Christy Doran on The Rugby Nation to dissect Bledisloe I and look ahead to Eden Park

Not only are there going to be 47,000 New Zealand fans cheering from the stands, the Wallabies are bracing from a response from the All Blacks.

All week the All Blacks' senior figures, including assistant coach John Plumtree who questioned the legality of the Wallabies' "off-ball tactics", have spoken about the need to address their physicality.

Hooper, however, played down the extra focus on the physical nature of last week's Bledisloe opener.

"It’s a part of most test matches, it’s just been brought to attention so it’s nothing new for us in this arena," he said.

"It’s pretty constant in these fixtures. Thinking more of the same there tomorrow."