Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says criticism in the media from former players such as Clyde Rathbone "hurts us" and it's something he would never do if the situation was reversed.
Former wing Rathbone wrote in a column that the All Blacks were clearly several levels above the Wallabies in every aspect and for Cheika's team to have blind faith in their ability was approaching "delusion". Rathbone said at best only two players from the Wallabies could be considered good enough to make an Anzac XV - outside back Israel Folau and loose forward David Pocock.
"From Muhammad Ali to [UFC fighter] Conor McGregor absolute self-confidence appears a prerequisite to every great sporting achievement. But for every Ali and McGregor there are countless athletes for whom blind faith in one's ability is a slippery slope to delusion," Rathbone wrote.
"The Wallabies were confident going into the first Bledisloe ... they talked themselves into the much vaunted 'winning mindset'. Forty-two points later reality came crashing home in the form of a record loss to the All Blacks. The truth is pitiless, indifferent to all but the purity of its own self evidence. And the truth is that the All Blacks are a much better team than the Wallabies."
Cheika responded today by saying: "That obviously hurts us doesn't it. In Australia there's a bit of that - reporters and ex-players [criticising], but there's a lot of ex-players who will contact you, not in the newspaper - real - and say 'we understand it's painful'. Not making it softer, but they're Australian and they'll support Australia no matter what.
"When it gets tough, mate, it's very easy for people to jump on and put the boot in. We'll take it, we have to take it, because we haven't performed. But when it gets tough, that's the time you show you're colours. I know where my colours are. If he's not happy about it, that's his choice. He can write about it, he can do whatever he wants, but at the end of the day, no matter what sport Australia is playing at, I'll be supporting them not matter what.
"I was certainly supporting [cricketer] Greg Chappell when he got six or seven ducks in a row back in the day in the West Indies when the pressure was on because he's a great Australia player and that's what I know I'd be doing if I was sitting on the other side, but that's his choice."
Captain Stephen Moore said the team wouldn't used the comments as motivation, saying: "All I care about are my teammates and my coaches and what we're doing internally because that provides enough motivation for me."
Following their 42-8 humiliation in Sydney last weekend the Wallabies are staring at their sixth test loss in a row in Wellington tomorrow, and Rathbone held little hope that his former team could upset the odds at Westpac Stadium.
"What I would give for the coach or player who when addressing the media let rip with this kind of unprecedented truth bomb: 'Look, we're almost certainly not going to win on Saturday. The last time we won in New Zealand was back in 2001 and our home record against the All Blacks isn't great either. They are one of the greatest sporting teams in history so we've got to play at our best and hope they have an off night if we're going to steal a win. That's the reality but we're up for the challenge'."