Carnage call leaves ABs coach unimpressed

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2012
Steve Hansen
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
NO ROTATION: This week is going to tell us a lot about Steve Hansen's coaching philosophies.

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There is some irony Graham Henry has been among the masses who have been vigorously poking toes into the Wallabies' vitals this week.

World Cup-winning coach Henry just couldn't resist dipping his beak into Steve Hansen's business when remarking that the All Blacks would emphatically punt the Aussies in Bledisloe II at Eden Park tonight. Hansen was unimpressed.

He offered a curt “thanks, Ted" with a disgruntled look which suggested he wished Henry would stick to tinkering with his fishing tackle rather than fuelling the Wallabies' desire to ram those words back into his mouth.

While Hansen's public demeanour has been calm, he will be nervy about his side getting too bullish - hence his miffed retort.

With the whole of New Zealand expecting the All Blacks to crucify the Australians, Henry's decision to feed the tourists motivational titbits may have left Hansen wondering if his predecessor has forgotten the sermons he preached during his eight-year tenure.

As All Blacks boss, Henry often berated anyone who dared to talk-up his side. He would then attempt to lower the public's expectations to ease the pressure on his players - and himself.

Unshackled from those responsibilities, he is now chirping like a sparrow. And finding anyone to disagree with his prediction has proved a mission of folly this week.

The reality is the Wallabies will require a great deal more than Henry's taunts to assist them in lifting their performance following last weekend's 27-19 defeat to the All Blacks.

Injuries have continued to undermine coach Robbie Deans' chances of winning the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since taking over the Wallabies in 2008 and a backline reshuffle was required to accommodate Quade Cooper's return at first five-eighth.

This could be very ugly for the Wallabies. And Cooper is in an unenviable position.

It is difficult to think of a more difficult arena than Eden Park to make his first test appearance since seriously injuring his knee there in the World Cup bronze medal match last year.

Deans didn't want Cooper last weekend but realises if they are to have a chance he must be slipped off the leash.

The risk is the unorthodox playmaker can be fragile against the All Blacks, and their loosies, led by Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, will seek to rub out him and draw out his flaky persona under pressure.

Cooper needs to resist any hankering to wallow in the pocket and instead run hard at the line if the Wallabies are to be any chance.

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His Queensland team-mate Will Genia, who takes over the captaincy from the injured David Pocock, took a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach when asked what it feels like to be universally dismissed by pundits.

“I haven't read or seen anything where we've been written off. We are confident. We understand it will take a very special effort to get the win but we wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could do it."

McCaw knows if the All Blacks can drill the gun halfback they will disintegrate the Aussies' belief and undermine their attack.

That theory should also apply to the scrum, although the Aussies did well to remain solid in the set-piece in Sydney.

Both sides were sloppy in their execution last week. If the All Blacks can improve their completion rates and enable Dan Carter to get his backline humming, the carnage could significant.

This is one prediction the astute Henry should get bang-on.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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