All Blacks not as imposing as in 2011 - Horne

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 18:42 18/08/2014
Rob Horne
Getty Images
NO LONGER IN AWE: Rob Horne got a baptism of fire from the All Blacks at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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It was a massive disappointment for Australian rugby yet one of Rob Horne's most memorable moments as a Wallaby remains the All Blacks' World Cup semifinal win in 2011.

Horne played the last 18 minutes of New Zealand's 20-6 victory almost three years ago and although he has played the world champions three times since then, the Waratahs' utility back has never felt the same sense of helplessness that he experienced when replacing Anthony Fainga'a at centre.

"It's an incredible rugby memory of mine because heading into that they had all the pressure in the world on their shoulders," Horne said.

"I got on .... and to experience their intensity, I guess to feel their presence as a whole team I could tell these guys are going to do it.

"They're going to go on and win the thing (World Cup) because they definitely had it that day - and the next week," Horne recalled, as the Wallabies prepared for their latest excursion to a venue where they haven't won since 1986.

Horne was also selected for the Sydney and Auckland Bledisloe tests in 2012 - Eden Park the scene of an embarrassing 22-0 defeat - but when he played in last weekend's sodden stalemate in at ANZ Stadium, the 25-year-old felt optimistic that Australian rugby's longest hoodoo was nearing an end.

Although the All Blacks were typically resilient in atrocious conditions, their aura of invincibility - that trademark ruthlessness - was not as evident. The Wallabies, however, had to be satisfied with 12-12 draw despite playing with a one-man advantage for 20 minutes.

Horne, on the wing opposite Cory Jane unless he was defending for playmaker Kurtley Beale when the All Blacks had set piece ball, was generally on the periphery, though close enough to believe the gap was closing between the world champions and the No 3-ranked Wallabies.

Just 17 tests into his career, Horne was wary not to suggest the All Blacks were on the wane, but the squad that will be principally responsible for defending the Webb Ellis Trophy in England next year is not quite as intimidating as the World Cup-winning roster.

"A World Cup environment is different to anything else," Horne said cautiously when asked if this All Black team were on a par with their predecessors.

However, he did draw a distinction with this Wallabies side compared to the personnel that went to New Zealand almost three years ago with high hopes until a loss to Ireland in pool play meant the All Blacks blocked their path to the final.

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He said an eight-match unbeaten streak - including a 3-0 series sweep over France in June - meant Australia approached the challenge of ending New Zealand's 20-year unbeaten reign at Eden Park in a positive frame of mind.

"We've got a lot of our patterns (in place)," he said. "We've got the same group together and we're feeling quite good about that.

"Unfortunately we didn't get the result at the weekend but we'll take a lot from that and keep moving forward."

Unfortunately that process was delayed today because the Wallabies had to cancel their first field session due to a continuation of the downpour that spoiled last weekend's spectacle.

They briefly walked through moves at an indoor leisure centre and hope to return to North Sydney Oval tomorrow for a workout once coach Ewen McKenzie has unveiled his line-up.

- Stuff

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