Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Sharpe up for ABs challenge

Nathan Sharpe thinks the Wallabies were at their best, traditionally, when they are cornered or  written off. Photo / Getty Images.
Nathan Sharpe thinks the Wallabies were at their best, traditionally, when they are cornered or written off. Photo / Getty Images.

As Nathan Sharpe surveyed his final Wallaby appearance in Australia he offered some ideas why his side might present a challenge to the All Blacks.

He figured the Wallabies were at their best, traditionally, when they were cornered or had been written off.

"We like the challenge, I think it fits the Australian psyche a little bit," he said.

"When the backs are to the wall the guys like to show their character and that is a strength and also a weakness and something we have to get away from in Australian rugby.

"It does not allow you to build consistency in performance. To be consistent you have to prepare the same way each week with minimal degrees of difference in your performance.

"And you can't rely on the emotional side of things to get you up each week and I think that is an area we have to get better at in Australian rugby."

Twice this year the Wallabies have been dusted by the All Blacks and with a rising injury toll they have been given little chance of an upset tomorrow at Suncorp Stadium.

Sharpe acknowledged that widespread perception and also noted that each test was different and that was the beauty of sport.

"Every team is beatable. We will have to play the best game we have played this year by a way as well and we are aware of that," he said.

"We have had a great week of preparation and if we can translate that into a performance on the field tomorrow night we will give ourselves a shot."

The All Blacks had been the greatest foe throughout his lengthy career.

You knew when you played them they would deliver a fast and physical inquisition.

"You play South Africa and England and all those sort of teams, it is big guys, heavy game and you feel the knocks after the game and when you play the All Blacks it is always a fast game and you feel the knocks," Sharpe explained.

There was tremendous respect for the All Blacks and their hooker Keven Mealamu who was playing his 100th test.

"He is a great bloke and he deserves this because he performs so consistently well each week and he has been the best hooker in New Zealand for a long period of time."

There was no dancing around the fact that the All Blacks were very experienced and that helped them in many games.

They were all on the same wavelength and were savvy about altering ideas and tactics to help them progress. That was their strength.

Coach Robbie Deans said it was easy to respond when "under the pump" but the key to test rugby was about being more than that and that was what the All Blacks had mastered.

- NZ Herald

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