Wallabies star scoffs at former captain's comments
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies are focused on cleaning up a dreadful error rate before facing the All Blacks, keenly aware any repeat in Perth on Saturday will ensure they remain without the Bledisloe Cup for a 17th straight year.
Promising signs in last month’s 17-35 loss to South Africa and 16-10 win over Argentina were buried under a flurry of handling problems as they coughed up 19 turnovers against the Springboks then 24 against the Pumas.
But the Wallabies know only too well that the All Blacks have made an art form of scoring from turnover ball.
“The past couple of [matches] we’ve probably let ourselves down,” said wing Reece Hodge on Tuesday.
“The main area of disappointment has been when we’ve forced those turnovers with defence, we’ve given it straight back to the opposition.
“That’s a big focus for us this weekend and we know how dangerous New Zealand can be if you let them have loose ball.”
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— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 6, 2019
The All Blacks played out a 16-16 draw with South Africa in Wellington after a patchy performance with an under-strength side in their tight win over the Pumas.
But Hodge scoffed a suggestion by former Wallabies captain Phil Waugh that the world champions were “vulnerable”.
“It’s no mean feat to go over to Argentina and win a Test match and South Africa have had some very close battles over the past couple of years.
“I definitely wouldn’t say they’re vulnerable.
“We are confident in ourselves and what we’re trying to do but they’re going to be extremely confident themselves as well.”
With only three Tests before their opening World Cup match in Japan, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is again set to tinker with his line-up – although winning the Bledisloe remains a major goal.
Veteran flank David Pocock won’t play despite joining the squad to train as he continues his comeback from a troublesome calf injury, but as many as six changes are predicted.
Hodge said players were trying to put the showpiece tournament aside and focusing on a win before the return Bledisloe match in Auckland on August 17.
“It’s a massive year for everyone in rugby, there’s no shying away from that,” Hodge said.
“You’d be silly to say the World Cup is not in the back of people’s minds but for us this week we’ve solely switched that focus to the Bledisloe.
“We’re trying to take those learnings from the first block of Rugby Championship and making sure we’re as best prepared as we can be.”