Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks ripe for plucking, Farr-Jones says

‘I can’t see that too much juice is left to be extracted from the All Black lemon,’ champion halfback claims in

Nick Farr-Jones passes the ball during the final Bledisloe Cup test in 1986, which he says the Wallabies were confident of winning. Photo / Herald archive
Nick Farr-Jones passes the ball during the final Bledisloe Cup test in 1986, which he says the Wallabies were confident of winning. Photo / Herald archive

When Nick Farr-Jones and the Wallabies last won at Eden Park in 1986, they had an expectation of victory the champion halfback sees emerging in the current squad.

Injury disruptions would have an impact on the All Blacks while the Wallabies had a settled young lineup on the rise and players like Sam Carter and Nathan Charles, who didn't carry any baggage about being All Black victims.

"I can't see that too much juice is left to be extracted from the All Black lemon," Farr-Jones suggested.

The opening Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney was not helped by atrocious weather and a pedantic referee but it was a traditional arm-wrestle and the Wallabies claimed some satisfaction from that battle. However, they would also rue a number of chances they had to win the test, especially when they had a man advantage for a quarter of the match.

"I think the Wallabies will improve over the next year and get more consistent.

There is real competition for places."

Farr-Jones felt there were some valid comparisons about the teams which tallied with their fortunes leading into the 1991 World Cup.

"The All Blacks were getting older and we felt some were hanging around too long and when we played them then, we felt we would get the better of them. It was never easy but we just felt we had the edge."

How did he rate the decision to pick Kurtley Beale at five-eighths and what about his performance in Sydney?

It was reasonable but Farr-Jones preferred him on the wing. His first 15 minutes were torrid and he needed better production from the forwards.

"It was not easy for him and I would make a change by bringing in Bernard Foley at five-eighths and put Beale on the wing instead of Pat McCabe, but that would be an admission from Ewen McKenzie he got it wrong in Sydney.

"I would give Beale the same licence we gave David Campese and instructions to go where he needed, bob up wherever he wanted and to create havoc among their defenders."

Farr-Jones recalled how he and his 1986 Wallaby comrades expected to win the final test at Eden Park to take the series.

"We were a good team that day while the All Blacks played out of character, just like England did in the 1991 World Cup final. Both teams played expansively which was not their usual game and we got past them.

"We should have cracked it again in '91 when we lost 6-3. We were very angry after that game and it was a nice mindset because we got together after that match and before the World Cup and said these matches we should win and we should be angry when we don't.

"We told ourselves we were going to have a little bit of revenge laterin the year if we met up with theAll Blacks as looked likely atthe World Cup." The Wallabies were positive about their ability then and expected to beat the All Blacks. In the past decade that had not always been apparent with Australia.

"It is very important you go in to places like Eden Park which is the All Blacks' spiritual cauldron, where the mindset of getting close is not good enough.

"I think the Wallaby problem has been about their mindset and not having the expectation they were going to win and therefore theydidn't get pissed off when theylost," said Farr-Jones.

When McKenzie took over the Wallabies last year he had a fortnight before the first Bledisloe. He didn't know half the players and therefore had little time to build the team culture and stamp his mark.

Since then they had sorted out their spirit and culture and were trending in the right direction. "My messages would be that simple things work, trying to be too extravagant puts too much pressure on a side.

"By nature, McKenzie is a conservative coach who will preach positive messages about getting the simple basics sorted.

"Michael Hooper is an exciting captain. He had the job thrust on him suddenly through injury but he leads them well.

"He did that with the Waratahs and he will be confident about travelling to Eden Park and doing the same with the Wallabies."

- NZ Herald

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