Wallaby Dennis seeks tips on beating Kiwis
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Wallabies back-rower Dave Dennis won’t need to look far for advice on how to win major sports clashes with New Zealand, as he prepares to face the All Blacks for the first time.
Dennis, who made his Test debut against Scotland in June, and came off the bench in all three internationals against Wales, will be part of a rejigged back-row at ANZ Stadium on Saturday in the Rugby Championship opener.
He will start at blindside flanker, with Scott Higginbotham moving from that spot to No.8 in place of the injured Wycliff Palu.
Dennis has experienced the atmosphere of trans-Tasman sporting combat through supporting girlfriend Mo’onia Gerrard – a long-time member of the Australian netball team.
Diamonds’ defender Gerrard has featured in several tight wins over the Silver Ferns, with Dennis having attended a couple of the games.
“I might get a few tips off her. They’ve got quite a good record against the Kiwis,” Dennis said.
“It’s a good rivalry they’ve got going on and it’s not dissimilar to the Bledisloe.
Dennis was at ANZ Stadium the night Australia last retained the Bledisloe Cup 10 years ago.
“I played the curtain-raiser for the City versus Country under 16s – that was a massive experience for me,” Dennis said.
“There was probably only a couple of thousand there early on, but that was big for my family.
“I remember it (Bledisloe Cup match) well. I watched the game.
“A decade has passed and now I get the opportunity to try and win it back with the boys, which is pretty special.”
Dennis and Higginbotham will get their first starts against New Zealand, though the latter twice came off the bench against the All Blacks last year.
“I’m expecting a baptism of fire, but that’s what you play for,” Dennis said.
“I played them at junior level, but obviously playing a top team is a whole new experience.”
Higginbotham wasn’t fussed at moving from blindside flanker to No.8 for this week’s game.
“They are quite similar, six and eight, a little bit of difference off the scrum, but it doesn’t change the lineout or any sort of phase play,” Higginbotham said.
The Wallabies pack will also include New Zealand-raised Sekope Kepu, who played alongside All Blacks prop Owen Franks at national age group level.
Kepu has already played three Tests against New Zealand, but said he had yet to cop a verballing from the Kiwis about his decision to represent Australia.
“I guess everyone is too focused and tuned into the game to even bother about getting in a spray,” Kepu said.© AAP 2013
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