Wallabies dodge Campo’s All Blacks ‘aura’ sledge


Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and Test great David Campese might have gone for New Zealand rugby’s jugular, but the Wallabies are keeping their feet firmly on the ground ahead of an All Blacks response in Bledisloe II.

The memory of last year’s 36-0 shellacking at Eden Park, which followed a resounding Australian victory in Perth, should be front and centre for all parties this week, yet some of the biggest names in the game have seen Sunday’s 16-all draw in Wellington as the perfect opportunity to declare Australian rugby’s “resurgence” is well and truly on.

RA chairman McLennan — who has in no way been backward in coming forward since taking on the role in June — predictably continued his front-foot approach in separate interviews on Tuesday, telling rugby.com.au and Stuff Media that Sunday’s stirring Wallabies performance was “vindication” for his organisation’s refusal to entertain the prospect of entering potentially only two teams in an expanded Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.

McLennan also doubled down on his belief that trans-Tasman relations were at their lowest ebb, a suggestion NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson rejected last week ahead of Bledisloe I.

Wallabies great Campese went a step further however, declaring that the All Blacks’ aura was dead before also taking aim at coach Ian Foster, who beat out Scott Robertson, the four-time Super Rugby-winning coach, for the right to replace Steve Hansen, albeit only on a two-year deal.

“That All Black is aura is gone. The younger guys are not composed, they’re not the same,” Campese told Stuff Media.

“I’m sorry but [Ian] Foster … I don’t think he’s going to last.

“If you [NZ Rugby] were confident, why wouldn’t they give him a four-year contract?”

Campese also called out NZR’s handling of their attempted reshaping of southern hemisphere rugby, which has also drawn the ire of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol and his Pacific Rugby Players counterpart Aayden Clarke.

It should come as no surprise that McLennan is pushing Australian rugby’s case with RA still chasing the best possible result for its next five-year broadcast cycle, which reportedly now has renewed interest from both current holders Foxtel and, somewhat surprisingly, the Nine Network.

But it’s on the field where the Wallabies really need to land a winning blow this weekend, and scrum-half Nic White was quick to rubbish Campese’s comments and instead put the focus firmly on Australia themselves.

“No, the All Blacks have been the standard for a long time and they still are,” White told reporters via Zoom. “Like I said, it wasn’t so much around where we’re playing this weekend, we expect we’ll get a reaction out of them – they’re a very good team and have shown that for a long time.

“So no, I don’t believe that. Do I have belief in us and that we can take it to them? Yeah. But that’s not a reflection of them at all, it’s a reflection of us and where we’re going.”

The two key areas where the Wallabies will be chasing marked improvement is their cleanout efficiency and at the lineout.

The swirling wind at Sky Stadium and adjustments made at halftime – which resulted in no further Wallabies lineout losses on their own throw – mean the criticism of the set-piece has been somewhat tempered in the fallout, but there can be no hiding from the lack of execution on the clear-out.

The Wallabies were pinged by referee Paul Williams for either holding on or incorrect entry on far too many occasions in Wellington, including after an excellent run from lock Matt Philip which had put Australia on the cusp of scoring midway through the first half.

White said the Wallabies knew how they could be better at the tackle in Auckland.

“Yeah we spoke about urgency to the breakdown will be key this week; I think that alone will probably solve a lot of problems, just speed to clear,” White said.

“We’re leaving them a fair bit of time with the ball-carrier by them self before we’re getting there when they’ve got threats all across the park that can get on the ball.

“So again, there [are] a lot of areas in our game that we can clear up and the room for growth is huge because that was an area that we didn’t do well and if we fix that up, well then we’re starting to see that what we’re doing [is] attacking pretty well.”

The Wallabies have rightly taken a degree of confidence from the result and when compared to last year’s triumph in Perth – which came against an All Blacks side forced to play with 14 men for 43 minutes – the 16-all draw perhaps takes on even greater significance given it came on New Zealand soil after a fractured preparation and for the fact that it was their first outing under a new coaching team’s game plan.

But with an entire nation demanding improvement and a 47,000-strong crowd expected at Coopers Catch Stadium – Eden Park has been renamed for the week – the Wallabies realise both the scope of the challenge that lies ahead of them and, more importantly, that they haven’t achieved anything yet.

“I think for one we’re pretty disappointed with what happened in Wellington; that’s a different thing right there,” White said when asked to compare the team’s current mindset with that between Bledisloe I and II last year.

“We’ve got a lot of areas where we’ve already seen that we can really fix the detail within the way we want to play the game. Again this group’s only come together [quickly], it’s pretty fresh; it’s been three weeks together. There’s a lot of belief and the things we’re doing, they’ll work. So if we tidy up those areas there’s a lot of growth still.

“We were pretty gutted in the sheds afterwards knowing that that game was there for the taking

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