Deans promises a clash full of daring rugby
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has tipped Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash and World Cup dress rehearsal to be an “epic encounter” full of daring rugby.
It will also be a battle of the ages.
New Zealand have picked the most experienced team in 108 years of All Blacks history as they attempt to put Deans’ brash young guns in their places at Eden Park.
While the hosts have an average age of 29, only six of Australia’s starting XV were born when the Wallabies last won in Auckland 25 years ago.
Eight are younger than the All Blacks’ youngest player, 23-year-old prop Owen Franks, while Australia’s combined total of Test caps (390) is a little more than half of their rivals (766).
Led by former Brisbane Bronco Brad Thorn, 36, New Zealand have five starters in their 30s while hooker Stephen Moore is the oldest Wallaby at 28.
They are even older than the ‘Dad’s Army’ English outfit of 2003 – but Martin Johnson’s men did win the Webb Ellis Trophy that year.
Making it far more than a statistical anomaly, coach Graham Henry has chosen the strongest All Blacks team available to him to suggest he will bank on battle-hardened veterans for the World Cup.
In contrast, Deans’ youth policy, resulting in an exciting rise over the past 12 months, has led to former Test enforcer Toutai Kefu’s view, shared by many nervous New Zealanders, that the Wallabies have timed their run perfectly while the Kiwis have peaked too early.
Vice-captain David Pocock, 23, certainly did not think age or inexperience would be a factor for the Australians on Saturday.
“They’re a lot more experienced than us but as a team we’ve been preparing well and we believe in where we’re going as a team,” he said.
“It’s not something our guys will be thinking about.
“If you’re good enough, age shouldn’t matter too much.”
Henry’s selection policy wasn’t questioned by Deans, who pointed out “the All Blacks’ recent performance history is unprecedented.”
Urging his side to embrace their opportunity at Eden Park, Deans was excited by their chance to storm New Zealand’s fortress and end their 17-year unbeaten run in Auckland before the World Cup.
But he dismissed talk the pivotal Tri-Nations and Bledisloe battle was a fore-runner to the tournament final on the same ground on October 23.
“That’s miles away. We’re not even thinking about that stuff now,” he said.
“Saturday is a great occasion. It will be an epic Bledisloe encounter.
“There’s been some great ones over the years and I’m backing this will be a great game.”
Already more than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the clash at the redeveloped stadium, making it the biggest crowd in the professional era in New Zealand.
Playmaker Quade Cooper has promised to continue his daring ways on the big stage and Deans is happy to give him a licence to thrill.
“There’s no point picking blokes and then shackling them,” he said.
“There will be a lot of rugby played. Neither side will have walked off the ground without having chanced their arm.”© AAP 2013
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