Cheika to make early fitness decisions
Photo Source: AAP
Defiant Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has declared "bring it on," as his side looks to break a 15-year, 19-Test winless streak against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
While most focus has been on Australia's 30-year drought against the world champions at Eden Park, the venue for Saturday's Test, the reality is the Wallabies haven't beaten the All Blacks anywhere in New Zealand since 2001.
And the All Blacks will be further motivated by the chance to break the world record for the most consecutive Test wins with an 18th straight victory.
Bookmakers give the Wallabies almost no hope, with one outlet listing New Zealand at a prohibitive $1.05 to win, Australia a $10 long shot in the dead rubber third Bledisloe Cup Test.
"It's obviously proven to be a tough place for us to go and play but I'm old fashioned," Cheika said on Monday.
"I look forward to it. Bring it on. It's a great opportunity."
Hooker and captain Stephen Moore was similarly positive.
"This is what you play for, these type of games, these opportunities to go and play the best teams," Moore said.
Both men offered some dark humour when asked if the Wallabies were using a psychologist to deal with the negativity surrounding their atrocious Eden Park record.
"No, Cheik does most of that," Moore quipped.
"And then I go and see a psychologist after that," Cheika joked.
In what might have been an ominous omen for the Wallabies, the lights went out just four seconds into their press conference at the same hotel in which a bugging device was found when the All Blacks stayed there back in August.
"We'll go on a bit of an Easter egg hunt and see if we can find it somewhere," Cheika said.
He anticipated making an early call on the fitness of injured back rowers David Pocock (hand) and Sean McMahon (ankle).
"We'll have a handle on where they are at today in training and then we'll get stuck into it tomorrow and see who can do what and base our decisions from there," Cheika said.
He was "100 per cent sure" Nick Phipps could step up at halfback in place of the in-form Will Genia, who has had to return to his French club.
"I have a lot of faith in Nick Phipps," Cheika said.
"I trust him a lot. I think not only is he a great player , but he's also very passionate about playing for Australia and I think he'll see this as a great opportunity to have a crack at earning that nine jersey back."
While Australia and New Zealand have both regenerated their side following the 2015 World Cup, Cheika was keen to stress he had blooded many more debutants, while All Blacks coach Steve Hanson largely promoted players with significant Test experience.
"They were doing what we are doing now, they were probably doing it seven or eight years ago," Cheika said.
He is adamant Australia have progressed during a season in which they have lost six of nine Tests, including losing the first two Bledisloe Cup matches 42-8 in Sydney and 29-9 in Wellington.