Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wary of Wallabies changes

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is wary of how much the Wallabies will change their tactics. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is wary of how much the Wallabies will change their tactics. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Wallabies admit they are trying to inject new elements to their game ahead of playing the All Blacks next week. The All Blacks, long before the Wallabies revealed this, knew that Australian coach Michael Cheika would have plans to strip bits out and build new components.

Everyone, in fact, could have guessed that Cheika would be looking to adapt, amend and invigorate the Wallabies' game plan after they struggled to put England under pressure in June, losing the series 3-0.

The question is, though, to what extent do the Wallabies need to change? Do they need to rip things up and start again or will they be able to transform themselves into the dangerous beast they were last year with a few subtle amendments and a couple of personnel changes? The All Blacks would guess at the latter - certain that while Australia couldn't beat England, they weren't catastrophically bad in defeat.

"Australia have got a few guys back [overseas-based players] so are they going to subtly change their game?" says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

"They will have looked at some of the issues [against England] and decided 'well, you know this isn't working so we will have to try that'. Most of the Southern Hemisphere teams in June are trying to get their team together, introduce their new guys without really showing us what they are all about."

The expectation is that the biggest change Australia will drive is personnel. They have a handful of players available for the Rugby Championship that weren't around in June - the most significant being the return to full fitness of David Pocock who missed much of the English series due to a fractured cheek.

The Wallabies missed Pocock in the second and third tests, losing that priceless ability to frustrate teams at the breakdown. When the Wallabies regular loose trio of Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy are on form, they are good enough to force the All Blacks to be wary about how they approach the opening Rugby Championship test.

In the equivalent game in Sydney last year, the All Blacks were unable to protect their possession at the tackled ball area and couldn't build enough pressure with their continuity game.

If it wasn't Pocock stealing their ball, it was Hooper. And Fardy was often the catalyst by making dominant tackles.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has plans to change the Wallabies team. Photo / Getty Images
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has plans to change the Wallabies team. Photo / Getty Images

Kane Douglas, a player whom Cheika clearly rates, has recovered from a knee injury and could add ballast and stability to a scrum that scrambled a bit against England and the backline could be transformed with the introduction of the experienced Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

First-five Michel Foley operates best in tandem with a second playmaker in the No12 jersey and the calming voice and astute decision-making of Giteau should give the Wallabies the skills and confidence to play with more direction and accuracy.

Ashley-Cooper will give their back three guidance and poise and could enable the magical running talents of Israel Folau to be better used and it is not hard for Hansen to see that the Wallabies team they will face next week will be exceptionally tough to beat and more than capable of embarrassing the All Blacks.

"I don't know that we have ever played a poor Australian rugby team," says Hansen. "It's like out own local [Super Rugby] derbies.

"You might play a team that is out of form but put them against a local team and all of a sudden their form lifts up and it is the same with the Aussies. They hate losing to us and we hate losing to them. They are desperate to get the Bledisloe back."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 22 Oct 2016 17:53:23 Processing Time: 614ms