Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Curse of Carter a painful thorn for Wallabies coach

Dan Carter. Photo / NZPA
Dan Carter. Photo / NZPA

The Wallabies and their new coach Ewen McKenzie avoided Daniel Carter last season.

However, they are not counting on that assistance when they tangle with the All Blacks who have set their sights on a world record for consecutive wins next month.

A three-match respite in 2013 from an injured Carter saw the Wallabies reduce the margin in each encounter without finding a victory.

With six weeks until the August 16 resumption of transtasman conflict and Carter returning after his sabbatical, McKenzie expects to see the 100-test five eighth directing the All Black operations in Sydney.

"Wherever I go in my career I find Daniel Carter, he just keeps popping up whether it was against us at the Brumbies, Reds or Waratahs.

"So I won't be surprised to see him turning up in August. It does not seem to matter what part of the world I'm in he seems to be there.

"He is a bloody good player and a terrific bloke too and lots of people want to see him play. I hope he doesn't play that well but it will not surprise me to see him there."

McKenzie needs to check on injured troops like Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Luke Burgess as he gathers his squad after the Super 15 for a road trip into heartland Australia before the Sydney test.

"It's getting out to places like Dubbo and Bathurst and breaking bread with the fans," he said. "We want to make it an annual event and then get back into town the week before the Bledisloe."

McKenzie has lost skipper Stephen Moore for the season with a knee injury and that impacted on the detail the pair had been working on for some time.

However, replacement captain Michael Hooper and his deputy Adam Ashley-Cooper had taken up their new portfolios strongly and the Wallabies were on a seven-match unbeaten test streak.

The collision in Sydney of one side seeking a world record and the other wanting to preserve a new run of success was a natural piece of promotional firepower.

"We had never beaten France three times in a row and that series last month was tough. We are on the right track and the best streak in Wallabies history is 10 so we have different challenges."

McKenzie left the Wallabies alone until a week before that series because he did not want to intrude on the Super 15. He was pleased with the way they embraced ideas they had worked on during their end of year tour to Europe.

There were still areas like the tight five where they were down on experience compared to the All Blacks.

"If we haven't got blokes like Woodcock and Mealamu who have had thousands of games, we have to develop them. We have seen that with the way the All Blacks have developed their men in the second row.

"It's not an excuse, you can't just give someone 30 tests but with the World Cup just around the corner we think we have the right blokes and we need to expose them to test rugby."

It was difficult for the Wallabies to make any bold claims about their chances in Bledisloe I because they had lost all three duels last season. They were getting closer but they had to be more competitive.

"It's just you can never relax against the All Blacks. You saw that against Ireland last year. I know more about my players and our game style and we picked that up in June.

"But we have to get our tactics right and get the core parts of our game right."

- NZ Herald

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