Super success makes Wallabies believe they have measure of All Blacks
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is counting on growing confidence in Australian players against Kiwi opposition to help snap a 19-year Bledisloe Cup drought.
The Wallabies will play their first mid-week Test in 28 years as they begin their attempt to wrest back the Bledisloe Cup from the All Blacks on a Thursday night in Melbourne.
The Trans-Tasman rivals will meet on September 15 in Melbourne, as Rugby Union avoids a weekend clash with AFL and NRL play-offs.
While the mid-week scheduling turns back the clock to 1994, Australian sides also harked back to the glory days with three of five teams banking Super Rugby Pacific wins in the last round, two against Kiwi teams.
Rennie hoped the improved form could transfer to the Test arena.
“It was a great weekend with the Brumbies winning [over the Hurricanes] and the Waratahs had a fantastic win over the Crusaders and the Rebels winning as well,” Rennie said on Monday at the launch of the Test schedule.
“The other sides all went close … so it’s good.
“I think we’re certainly more competitive and teams can take a lot of confidence out of that.”
He said that rising confidence and improved player depth was a positive for Australian rugby against their arch-rivals, and also with England arriving for a three-Test series in July.
“It’s important that we do well against the Kiwi sides as it gives us confidence, gives our players confidence that playing against some of the best players in the world, they can stand up,” Rennie said.
“A big challenge for our Super sides is developing enough depth to be consistently competitive but we’d be confident we can pick a really strong 23 – our Wallabies bench could add value and it’s crucial against the All Blacks because they’ve got so much depth.”
The prized trophy will be contested this year in a two-match series, meaning Australia need to beat holders New Zealand in both games.
The second Test will be played at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday, September 24.
The last time Australia and New Zealand met in a mid-week Test was on a Wednesday night in Sydney in 1994, when scrumhalf George Gregan pulled off a match-winning tackle on Jeff Wilson to secure a Wallabies victory.
They have only played four Bledisloe fixtures in Melbourne previously with two wins apiece.
In the last Test, in 2010 at then Colonial Stadium (now Marvel), the All Blacks ran out comfortable 49-28 winners in front of a crowd of more than 50,000.
The Bledisloe Cup, which is part of the Rugby Championship, leads a busy schedule of internationals for Australia’s men’s and women’s teams.
The Wallaroos are preparing for the World Cup in New Zealand later this year and will host the Black Ferns as part of a historic doubleheader at Adelaide Oval on August 27.
Their match precedes a Wallabies clash with South Africa, which is the hosts’ first Test in South Australia since 2004.
Contesting the O’Reilly Cup, the Wallaroos will also take on New Zealand in a stand-alone fixture in Christchurch on August 20.
Rugby Australia also announced an NSW Test between the Wallabies and South Africa, with the venue to be confirmed, and two away Tests against Argentina in August.
Brisbane, Perth and Sydney are already hosting England Tests.