Rugby: Match-starved Wallabies still confident

Despite a lack of big game rugby over the past month, Wallabies captain David Pocock insists his side are ready to face the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener. Photo / Greg Bowker
Despite a lack of big game rugby over the past month, Wallabies captain David Pocock insists his side are ready to face the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener. Photo / Greg Bowker

Flogged by coach Michael Cheika at training, the game-hungry Wallabies insist they're ready to tackle the more match-hardened All Blacks in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener.

Fitness has been a major focus for Cheika, who wants an improvement from the Australians since the June series sweep by England.

His concern has been compounded by the lack of recent match play for his squad members.

Most of the Wallabies will not have played for five weeks going into the match at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on Saturday, while many of the New Zealanders were involved in Super Rugby until two weekends ago.

"I was sitting with a couple of boys and saying, 'Geez, we haven't played rugby in ages'," Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper said on Sunday.

"Cheik has been working us up and down hills, we've been running round bashing each other a little bit, so we'll be in good stead.

"Physically we're fine, we're good to go."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes there were advantages and disadvantages for both teams.

"The advantage (for Australia is) because they've got a lot of team time together, but there's nothing like playing big games," Hansen said at New Zealand's arrival at Sydney Airport on Sunday.

"A lot of our guys were involved in the (Super Rugby) finals, so that's probably a little advantage for us."

Cheika has also kept his charges mentally alert by offering no clues about the starting line-up.

"There's been two teams that have been mixed up and changed up each week, so no one knows where they stand," Hooper said.

"I think that's a good thing because everyone is pushing and vying for positions."

Hooper said the Wallabies were looking to improve their communication with referees.

He said there had been no talk in the camp about the Wallabies' previous match against New Zealand, the 2015 World Cup final, which the All Blacks won.

"It sucks. I haven't watched the game still," Hooper said.

"It's a new year and the opportunity is ahead."

- AAP

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