Wallabies under pressure amid high-drama
Only time will tell what head-space the Wallabies are in for their must-win Bledisloe Cup clash at Eden Park on Saturday, but Quade Cooper’s bizarre media antics suggest the pressure on Australia to break rugby’s biggest hoodoo will only intensify before kick-off.
The Wallabies are fighting to save their Rugby Championship ambitions and avoid a Bledisloe strike-out at a ground where they haven’t beaten the All Blacks in 26-years.
But as if that wasn’t more than enough to contend with, the Wallabies continued to cop it from all angles on Thursday and even dished out a few curve balls of their own.
In a day of high drama, coach Robbie Deans admitted Kurtley Beale was battling confidence issues after dumping him from the starting team for Adam Ashley-Cooper amid a raft of changes.
Demoting such a star player for one bad game was a big and risky call.
“He’s still part of the group and there’s no doubt he’ll re-establish himself in time but obviously he wasn’t a bundle of confidence last week and we need blokes this week who are,” Deans said.
Deans’ injury headaches continued with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau forced out of the starting 15 and in doubt for the match, with Scott Higginbotham also under a cloud.
And for good measure the coach was also given a verbal spray in the New Zealand media by former Australian coach Alan Jones – which Deans brushed aside as “part of the territory”.
Of course the most prominent news was Cooper is back in the fold for the first time since he fizzled out at the same venue in Auckland at last year’s World Cup.
But 13 seconds and 26 words in front of the cameras was all the wisdom the recalled five-eighth wanted to offer before walking away from his press conference at Leichhardt Oval.
“All I want to say is I’m back. I’m fit, healthy, I’m ready to go. And I’ll see everybody at Eden Park,” said Cooper before turning his back on the scrum.
In Cooper’s mind there’s obviously a method to the madness, but the unusual approach is sure to perk the interest of All Blacks fans who didn’t need a special invitation to apply the blow-torch to the kiwi-born Wallaby once again.
Cooper was badly exposed in New Zealand’s semi-final win over Australia at the World Cup, before his nightmare continued at Eden Park when he ruptured his knee in the third-place play-off against Wales.
Deans spoke before Cooper took centre stage at the media conference, but said he was confident his star playmaker would stand up to the pressure.
“Quade will be very keen to get back out there and play,” said Deans, who moved Berrick Barnes to inside centre.
“These blokes who play at this level understand you play in hostile environments, it’s about what you do, how you respond.
“It’s not so much about the past, it’s about right now.
“Tough experiences produce one of two responses. Either you build resilience and develop your toughness and keep going, or you opt out. And I think you’ll see a good response.”
Deans won’t name his reserves bench until after Friday’s captain’s run in Auckland, with 25 players travelling.© AAP 2013
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