Revamped Australia Unlikely To Surprise New Zealand

by
Reuters
While talk across the Tasman Sea is that Australia will get a psychological boost from having a new coach, New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster said there was little they can do to surprise the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday.

Revamped Australia Unlikely To Surprise New Zealand

While talk across the Tasman Sea is that Australia will get a psychological boost from having a new coach, New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster said there was little they can do to surprise the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday.

Former Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie succeeded Robbie Deans last month after the British and Irish Lions wrapped up a 2-1 series victory with a crushing 41-16 win in Sydney.

Pundits in Australia have suggested the arrival of McKenzie and his coaching staff would shake up the Wallabies and help them seize an early advantage in the southern hemisphere's annual competition.

"There's lot of talk over there," Foster told reporters on Monday. "They see it as a new start, but we see it as the Wallabies in Sydney and we always expect a very committed and fired up team.

"They have got some clearly stated goals to win the Bledisloe (Cup) and so have we," he added in reference to the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy which is also up for grabs.

McKenzie introduced eight new caps into his squad for the Rugby Championship but All Blacks players and coaches are well aware of their playing abilities, having encountered most if not all, at Super Rugby level.

"Clearly we have watched teams he has coached and picked up a few things," Foster said when asked if they had analysed McKenzie's coaching style. "I guess that's the hard part with a new coach, you're not quite sure of combinations but we have studied their players in their squad thoroughly.

"They will be similar players and have the same tendencies."

Much of the pre-match discussion has settled on whether mercurial flyhalf Quade Cooper will start for the Wallabies after he fell out with Deans and was not selected for the Lions series.

Cooper's instinctive style did not fit with Deans' conservative tactics, though he has thrived at Super Rugby level under McKenzie where he was given more time and space.

McKenzie endorsed Cooper's credentials before he got the Wallabies job, but has said he would prefer to keep the All Blacks guessing as to who would start in the pivotal position on Saturday.

World champions New Zealand, however, expected the Wallabies to be 'Red-tinged' in their style no matter who was playing at flyhalf, rather than the more structured play adopted by beaten Super Rugby finalists the ACT Brumbies.

"We have to expect everything with the Australians," fullback Israel Dagg said.

"They will have some new ideas but we have played Australia quite a few times, we've played their players a lot so it will be similar.

"The Reds like to use the ball, spread it wide and they like to run it from everywhere so we expect it to be quick and fast with a few opportunities and the team that nails those opportunities will come away with it."