James Mortimer 24.Aug.2012getty
A win for the hosts wraps up the Bledisloe Cup, but the Wallabies know that a triumph not only keeps their hopes alive, both in the trans-Tasman rivalry and the overall tournament – but victory would see the breaking of a historic drought at this weekend’s ground.
Many of the current Australian team were not even born with the drought extending to 26 years, so to beat the All Blacks and do what many credentialed Wallabies outfits have failed to conquer what is statistically their second worst ground in Australia (the House of Pain saw just the 2001 team break a ten match winning run by New Zealand), would be a big boost for this young green and gold side.
With Quade Cooper reunited with Will Genia, there is an expectation that their backline can cause some chaos, but this means the pack must get on top of an All Blacks forward unit at Eden Park.
Captain David Pocock, prop Sekope Kepu and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau have been ruled out, three players who have had significant contribution in the tight exchanges.
Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore comes into the team, a substitution that doesn’t lessen the side at all, if anything one of the drivers behind the Canberra based franchise’s brilliant season will be well aware as to what he needs to achieve against Keven Mealamu.
Ben Alexander replaces Kepu, but it is young flanker Michael Hooper that will have the spotlight on him, with the prodigy dominating on the Investec Super Rugby stage.
This will be his first test against the All Blacks, but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans backed a player who had already tasted international rugby.
“Hoops we've seen a bit of already, through June he did very good.” Deans said.
"He's a real source of enthusiasm in the group and he'll just take to his work, he won't be daunted by it, he'll be excited by the opportunity he's got.
"We do back him and we have backed him and he's shown that that backing is well justified."
Hooper’s enthusiasm has been shown by how “excited” he is in coming up against Richie McCaw, but that will need to translate to a no-nonsense performance according to Deans.
"We've got to do better (up front)," said Deans.
"We weren't good enough in any way around the contact area, the All Blacks were very effective at getting between us and the ball and we've got to be smarter and more effective."