Australia are heading into their third Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand on Saturday confident they only need to make a small number of tweaks to their performance to keep the series alive.
The Wallabies need to win the clash at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, which is also the first game in this year’s truncated Rugby Championship, to send the series for the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy to a decider in Brisbane on November 7.
Dave Rennie’s team were unlucky to finish the first game in Wellington with a 16-16 draw before the All Blacks rebounded in the second to notch a 27-7 win at Eden Park.
“We know what the standards are and they dropped from the first week,” flyhalf James O’Connor told reporters at the team’s training base in the Hunter Valley, about 270km (170 miles) north of Sydney, on Monday. “We know what we’re capable of. Across the board there just needs to be little improvements and be more efficient.
“It’s just little tweaks.”
The Wallabies missed some 40 tackles in the loss at Eden Park, while some of the kicking – so lethal in the wind and rain in the first game – was misdirected in Auckland. The Australian team also failed to put as much pressure on the All Blacks’ counter attack as they had in the first clash.
The All Blacks scored two quick tries, and three within the space of 15 minutes, at Eden Park and Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White added they were confident that was probably the only real difference between the two sides in New Zealand.
“In two games, three of the four halves we have done really well,” White said. “That fourth half, yeah we missed tackles and let in a couple of quick tries.
“Your confidence will take a hit, but it hasn’t taken a huge hit. We know that we can get back there. Are we good enough? Yeah we are. The confidence is there that we can do it, 100%.”
All Blacks keen to avoid another ‘punch on the nose’
New Zealand expect the physicality level to be ramped up again for the third Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Sydney on Saturday, with the home side desperate to give themselves a chance of regaining the trophy.
The All Blacks have held the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy since 2003 and have a 1-0 lead in the four-match series following a 16-16 draw in Wellington and a 27-7 win at Eden Park.
The Wallabies need to win both the remaining games, at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday and at Brisbane’s Lang Park on November 7, to reclaim the trophy.
“The intensity will probably raise from Eden Park, as there is so much on the line,” All Blacks hooker Dane Coles told reporters in a conference call from Sydney on Monday.
“We took a bit of a punch on the nose in that first game, and they dictated a lot of the game around our physicality.
“We knew we needed to make a step up and come out with some good intent.
“We did that at times, but we still have a lot to improve in our game and get better at it.”
Coles added, however, that their aggression had to be channelled properly.
“It is not about going out and being an idiot,” the 71-test hooker said. “It is just making sure you stick to your cleans and your tackles and stuff like that.”
The All Blacks pack are likely to be boosted by the return of veteran lock Sam Whitelock after he missed the second test with concussion symptoms.
“I have had a bit of extra time to take it slowly,” Whitelock said. “I have been training fully, so I just need some boys to tackle. Hopefully I’ll get through that (on Tuesday).”
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