Michael Cheika will regret telling the rugby world last week that Quade Cooper was definitely on the plane to the World Cup in September.
Cooper had a shocker last night, and the vast majority of the 48,457 crowd at Eden Park enjoyed the Wallaby pivot’s agony in the All Blacks’ 41-13 win to retain the Bledisloe for a record 13th season. It kept their unbeaten record intact against the Wallabies at the fortress since 1986.
They say a week is a long time in politics. The same can be said about the Wallabies after their superb 27-19 win at ANZ last week. The men in gold were but a shadow of themselves last night. Missing were the commitment, the fluency and the passion.
It was pretty much even stevens until the 21st minute when the All Blacks won possession in their right hand quarter and moved play to the left touchline. Dan Carter swerved around James Horwill and was in the clear to send a perfectly timed pass to hooker Dan Coles. Coles ran like a winger for 35 metres to touch down.
A brilliant try that Carter converted, and the All Blacks led 10-3.
Even at 13-6 at the break, the Wallabies were roughly in touch until Cooper head high tackled All Black halfback Aaron Smith 10 metres out. Welsh referee Nigel Owens had no hesitation awarding a penalty try and awarding Cooper a yellow card. The Queenslander was lucky it wasn’t red.
Those seven points, plus the Ma’a Nonu and Ben Smith tries that were converted by Carter, handed the All Blacks a precious 21 points while Cooper was binned.
That was game, set, and match by the 54th minute as the men in black piled on the points.
So there were no celebrations when Israel Folau scored the Wallabies’ only try four minutes from time. But there were lessons learnt last night.
The Wallabies must never go into any Test of importance in the future without David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the starting line-up.
That will especially apply to the vital World Cup clashes against Fiji at the Millennium Stadium on September 23, England at Twickenham on October 3, and the last pool game against Wales at Twickenham on October 10.
Only two of that ‘Kiss of Death’ pool will qualify with Uruguay for the quarters.
Another telling factor that emerged last night was that the scrum wasn’t nearly as effective as last week. Giant lock Will Skelton is an impact player off the bench, not a starter.
The return of Kane Douglas looms as a vital cog in the Wallaby scrum machinery, while Matt Toomua is a 10, not a 12. Importantly, there’s a glaring lack of size, talent, and speed at 12. Will Samu Kerevi make the Word Cup squad?
And Will Genia must be fit for the World Cup, or the Wallabies’ chances of reaching the business end will be severely dented.
So we await the Wallaby World Cup squad announcement on Friday.
Having recognised the Wallaby failings last night, a fitting way to end this piece would be to salute All Black captain Richie McCaw, champion goal-kicker Dan Carter, and their two legendary centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who all played their last Test last night on New Zealand soil.
All four have been a credit to rugby their entire careers, with McCaw the most capped international in history with 142, Carter the most prolific scorer with 1516 points, while Nonu and Smith have created midfield havoc all round the world.
Now for the World Cup, with the Wallabies having sufficient time to lick their wounds after a painful wake-up call.