Why Wallabies are dodging Eden Park before match day
None of Dave Rennie’s Wallabies – not even comeback kid Quade Cooper – were born the last time Australia triumphed at Eden Park.
And despite flying into New Zealand a week before Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener, some of the squad are yet to go there as internationals.
Swapping their Tauranga training camp for Auckland on Friday, the Wallabies opted against a run on New Zealand’s house of pain, heading instead for Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland’s south.
Assistant coach Scott Wisemantel downplayed any funny business, saying they bypassed Eden Park for Mt Smart’s “fantastic gym” and facilities.
“We’ve got 42 players and we’re running two to three squads,” he said.
“[At Mt Smart] we could have meetings. We could gym. We could cater for everyone. We got a really meaningful training session.
“The ground was perfect. It was brilliant.”
In contrast, the All Blacks enjoyed a captain’s run on Eden Park on Friday, ahead of the game on Saturday.
“It’s gonna be awesome having a massive crowd here obviously all dressed out on black cheering us on,” captain Sam Whitelock said.
“We are very, very grateful for that.”
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The Wallabies haven’t won at Eden Park since 1986 – a run of 20 straight losses – and the All Blacks are undefeated there since 1994.
There’s no talk of the hoodoo in camp and Wisemantel said even last year’s matches – a 16-16 draw in Wellington and a 27-7 loss in Auckland – were “history”.
“The key emphasis for us … is about our job. Doing it well. With absolute clarity,” he said.
“The game is going to have momentum swings. They all do. It’s just who can hold their nerve.
“Hopefully it’s close at the 60 [minute] mark and it’s just who can keep applying the pressure.”
Rennie’s side is internationally inexperienced: fullback Tom Banks, with 14 caps, is the most capped man in a backline averaging just seven Tests each.
With 2019’s John Eales medallist Marika Koroibete missing, the only Wallaby with the award lining up at Eden Park is Michael Hooper, in his 56th Test as Wallabies skipper.
However, they take form and heart into the Trans-Tasman series, closing out a 2-1 series victory over France last month.
Rennie, a Wellingtonian, flipped the switch from Australia’s Eden Park embarrassments to the expectations Kiwis place on the All Blacks when they play at home.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the challenge of taking on New Zealand at Eden Park, a place they’re expected to win whenever they play there,” he said.
“We have a great opportunity to show how tight we are as a group on Saturday and create our own history.”