The Wallabies had only the lightest of light training runs at Eden Park today, their long huddle in the middle of the pitch which has been so cruel for them over the years taking up a large proportion of their preparation a day out from a potential Bledisloe Cup decider.

It probably doesn't take a genius to guess what skipper Michael Hooper was talking about in the middle of it all because this test is significant – perhaps the most significant of Michael Cheika's reign as coach.

Lose and the old cup – the All Blacks' most cherished after the William Webb Ellis trophy – is locked up again. Lose badly and the knives will be out at home big time. But win, and virtually all will be forgiven - certainly the June series loss to Ireland will be, and it will all on for the decider in Tokyo in October.

The message from Hooper to his teammates will probably have been simple. Do the basics well, and play with an intensity which takes the All Blacks out of their comfort zone. That might take a bit of mongrel too, a term and attitude the Aussies are not unfamiliar with, but either way the Wallabies must put the home side under pressure for the majority of the 80 minutes.


There will be interest not only in whether they can do that at a place where Australia haven't beaten the All Blacks since 1986 against a side which put five tries past them in the second half last weekend in Sydney, but also how they react afterwards to Owen Franks' 100th test milestone, a side issue which adds frisson to a testy relationship between the two sides which worsened after the perceived snub of Sam Whitelock's.

Asked whether the Wallabies would stick around on the pitch for what will be a formal presentation, Hooper said: "I don't know how they're doing that but we're going into the changing room after the match and I'm sure everyone will pay their respects to an amazing career that he's had so far.

"I'm sure he's got more in the tank. Every 100th cap is a great opportunity and we'll have an opportunity to do that."

He didn't confirm the Wallabies would watch the presentation, which could be held before the handing over of the Bledisloe Cup to Kieran Read, but it would probably create a diplomatic incident if they didn't.

Australian Wallabies captain Michael Hooper with halfback Will Genia during the Captains Run at Eden Park on Friday, in preparation for the 2nd test. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Australian Wallabies captain Michael Hooper with halfback Will Genia during the Captains Run at Eden Park on Friday, in preparation for the 2nd test. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Asked to clarify what happened last weekend around Whitelock's milestone, Hooper said: "I know individually a lot of players paid their respects. But that was last week, Owen Franks is tomorrow night. It's Whitelock's 101st tomorrow."

Is Eden Park just another venue for the Wallabies? How can it be, given their horror run of 17 defeats to the All Blacks there. It would have been brought up many times this week if only to reassure them that there is no such thing as a hoodoo, but after a while these things take on a life of their own.

"We're thinking about tomorrow night," Hooper said, after explaining that his side had an easy day today because of their tough work during the week. "As simple and as clichéd as it sounds, we're thinking about tomorrow night. It has been on my mind all week, tomorrow night, and I can't wait that we're one day away. I wasn't there in '82, I wasn't alive, or whatever – '84, '86 - close, so that's how much I've been paying attention to that stuff.

"What we've been talking about as a team is that this will be a really hard, physical match.


"We love that challenge, we know it's going to be physical, we know there's going to be a lot of movement on the ball. Myself personally, I was exhausted in some parts last week. How good, I love that, I love playing these guys, I love that we're down here this week. It's going to be cold, there's going to be a lot of people yelling and not much gold in the crowd. Without swearing, this is the stuff we play for, this is what we want to be here for."

Hooper denied the Wallabies' backs are against the wall, but they must be pretty damn close. And then there is Cheika, the combustible coach who could fill a highlights reel from his seat in the stand.

"What we've seen from Cheik this week is that the guy wants to win; an absolute thirst for this team to reach its potential, that's what Cheik's about," Hooper said. "That's what he's exuded this week."

They're not doing it for him and nor should they when they can do it for themselves, their families and their country; another weekend in the amazing and occasionally bloody history of the Bledisloe Cuup.

"Mate, there's a million people we could say we're doing it for," he said. "We play for our country and that's a huge amount of motivation. We want them to be proud of this team and that's something we weren't able to do in the back end of last week."