Wallabies hungry to end Bledisloe drought - Hooper

By Sports Desk August 16, 2019

Michael Hooper says facing New Zealand with the prospect of ending a 17-year Bledisloe Cup drought "ups the hunger" for Australia.

The Wallabies thumped the All Blacks 47-26 in Perth last Saturday, taking full advantage of Scott Barrett's red card.

New Zealand lost their Rugby Championship title after South Africa beat Argentina later in the day and they will be looking for a first win in three Tests at Eden Park on Saturday, knowing they are in danger of slipping off the top of the rankings.

Australia have lost their last 18 Tests against the world champions, but captain Hooper is relishing the challenge of trying to get his hands on the Bledisloe Cup for the first time.

"These are the games you want to be a part of and it's even a level up again this week," the flanker said.

"You're going to a place where many a generation of Wallaby hasn't won and coming up against a great New Zealand side for some silverware on the line.

"It's fantastic being on the other end and certainly ups the hunger."

Assistant coach Simon Raiwalui knows Australia face a huge challenge at the Auckland venue.

"Obviously there's a history but we've been solely focused on what's in front of us. It's all in the present," Raiwalui said.

"We're under no illusions about what we face. It's a great All Black team full of quality players and they're going to come out and they're going to be fizzing."

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    Steve Hansen is confident there is more to come from New Zealand after they kicked off their Rugby World Cup defence with an impressive 23-13 victory over South Africa.

    The All Blacks had to withstand plenty of pressure in the opening quarter of their Pool B opener in Yokohama, but they seized control of the game in a stunning six-minute spell featuring tries for George Bridge and Scott Barrett.

    Although South Africa fought back impressively after the interval, New Zealand were able to remain ahead and extend their streak of never losing a World Cup pool game.

    "We're pretty happy with where we're at at the moment," said coach Hansen in his post-match news conference. "Everybody knew that this was going to be a big match and obviously it was. Both teams played very well at times and we're very happy to come out with a win.

    "Were we perfect? No. But you're never gonna be at this stage of the tournament and that was the interesting part about this game for both teams.

    "You're not in the swing of the tournament and right from the get-go you've got probably the biggest game of the group. We've come out on top. [I'm] very happy that we did, but there's plenty of stuff we can work on."

    South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus highlighted New Zealand's discipline as a key factor in the outcome.

    "Discipline was always going to be a massive thing for us," said All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.

    "South Africa love to build pressure through those penalties and they've got a kicker like [Handre] Pollard who showed right from the outset he can kick from 50 metres.

    "It was a conscious decision from us to make sure we didn't give away too many penalties and we probably haven't been as smart throughout this whole year, but we were at a different level today."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: New Zealand's discipline won them the game, says Erasmus Rugby World Cup 2019: New Zealand's discipline won them the game, says Erasmus

    Rassie Erasmus felt South Africa's Rugby World Cup defeat to New Zealand owed much to the All Blacks' superior discipline.

    The Springboks applied plenty of pressure in the first quarter of Saturday's blockbuster Pool B opener but saw their 3-0 lead quickly turn into a 17-3 deficit, the defending world champions hitting top gear in a stunning six-minute blitz.

    A Pieter-Steph du Toit try and Handre Pollard's second penalty gave South Africa hope after the interval, only for Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett to land three-pointers as New Zealand triumphed 23-13.

    In a post-match news conference, Erasmus said: "I think they won it. I don't think we lost it. Two tries to one, they definitely deserved to win the game.

    "If you concede, I think, 11 penalties to two, you're going to struggle to beat New Zealand. I think discipline was our biggest downfall. I don't think we can moan about anything.

    "As I said, I think the penalty count was 11-2, so we did 11 things wrong. We have to go and fix it. They only did two things wrong, which is unbelievably well disciplined by them. That battle, we lost.

    "I give all credit to New Zealand. When we had territorial and scoreboard pressure and they had that one opportunity to pounce, they pounced."

    No team has ever won the World Cup after losing in the pool stage, but Erasmus believes his side can buck that trend.

    "I think we can fight back. I think even in the game we fought back," he stated. "To be down 17-3 and get back to 17-13 and being in their 22 ... there were stages when we really fought back well."

    With a smile, he added: "If you're grouped with New Zealand in your pool, you've got a good chance of not going undefeated through your pool.

    "And then you have to fight back and try and get to the final, for the first time in history not being unbeaten. We have to go [down] that route now."

    Erasmus said Trevor Nyakane (calf) was the only Springboks player to pick up an injury, attributing late concerns over Cheslin Kolbe and Du Toit to cramp.

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    While the All Blacks are understandably many people's favourites to prevail in Japan, it is fair to say their status as rugby's dominant nation has come under more questioning than usual in recent months.

    South Africa won this year's Rugby Championship, in which Steve Hansen's men suffered a stunning 47-26 defeat to Australia - albeit one they avenged the following week with a 36-0 thumping of the Wallabies to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

    The All Blacks have also been displaced by Ireland at the top of World Rugby's rankings and the likes of Wales and England have been tipped to mount strong challenges for glory over the coming weeks.

    For 20 minutes on Saturday, any doubts over New Zealand's strength were heightened as South Africa started superbly in a blockbuster Pool B opener in Yokohama that could well serve as a dress rehearsal for the final at the same venue on November 2.

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    The Boks initially got off lightly when De Klerk's wild pass from a ruck was pounced upon by Richie Mo'unga, who kicked ahead before being halted just short of the line. Makazole Mapimpi was penalised for not releasing the number 10, but the wing avoided a yellow card and the All Blacks merely picked up three points to level the score when a try had appeared highly likely.

    New Zealand had found their mojo, though, and in a matter of minutes they took complete control with two stunning tries in quick succession.

    Hansen's decision to start Beauden Barrett - widely viewed as the world's finest fly-half - at full-back in order to accommodate Mo'unga has prompted much debate, but the presence of two playmakers was certainly influential as the All Blacks hit top gear.

    Mo'unga's cross-field kick to Sevu Reece started the move that led to the first try. Reece promptly skinned the out-of-position Mapimpi before working the ball through Aaron Smith to a galloping Ardie Savea. From the next phase, Barrett surged through a gap from second receiver and laid on a simple finish for George Bridge.

    Barrett was also heavily involved in the passage of play that led up to the All Blacks' second score, which was finished by namesake Scott Barrett after Anton Lienert-Brown had dazzlingly weaved past five defenders.

    Having been 3-0 down and on the rack, New Zealand were suddenly 14 points to the good and their opponents understandably appeared somewhat stunned for the remainder of the half.

    To their credit, the Springboks did battle back gamely after the interval, but they had been left with too much to do.

    It has been 12 years since the All Blacks last lost a World Cup fixture. Their magical six-minute blitz on Saturday suggests it will take something special to deny them another title.

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