Wallabies name identical team for second test
Same game plan, identical personnel.
The Wallabies will attempt to keep their hopes of regaining the Bledisloe Cup alive at Eden Park on Saturday with the line-up that ended the All Blacks' bid for a world record winning streak in Sydney last weekend.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie's team announcement seven days ago contained an element of surprise when Kurtley Beale was named at first five-eighth.
Today's unveiling was not as dramatic as he predictably kept faith with the 23-man squad that ended the All Blacks' 17-test winning sequence by securing a 12-12 draw at ANZ Stadium.
Beale has been retained at first five-eighth and lead playmaker despite a mixed performance in admittedly unfavourable conditions for expansive rugby - a strategy McKenzie will persist with regardless of the weather in Auckland come kick-off.
That leaves Bernard Foley on the bench as the designated closer - a role he was unable to fulfil at the scene of his Super Rugby final heroics because the Wallabies were unable to set up a deadlock-breaking dropped goal attempt in the dying minutes.
McKenzie may have considered a change at halfback following Nic White's frustrating outing punctuated by an unusually inaccurate tactical kicking game - and moments of ill-discipline - but Nick Phipps remains as the back-up despite his excellent form during the latter stages of the Waratahs' maiden Super Rugby title.
"We were impressed with the pressure we were able to apply in the opening test and, despite some errors, were pleased with the intent of the group to continue attacking despite the poor weather conditions," McKenzie said.
Once Wycliff Palu passed a concussion test after copping a blow during the second half on Saturday, McKenzie was always going to name an unchanged forward pack - a reward for their impressive efforts against an All Black eight that had been expected to dominate.
McKenzie, a prop when the Wallabies halted the All Blacks' 12-test winning sequence at Athletic Park in 1990 was enthused by the potential of Australia winning their first test in Auckland since 1986.
"For me it's a fantastic motivator," he said, aware the All Blacks have also not lost a test at Eden Park in 32 tests since France triumphed there in 1994.
"The more (journalists) write about it the better I'll feel about it, because I'll be telling the players there's a chance to make a (a bit of history).
"If we haven't won there for (28 years) and if we can be the first team to do that, that's a special team.
"For me it's a great reference point. If you can do something other people can't do, it makes you a better looking team. Bring it on, I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I know it's difficult to play there, there's no question about that, but in the end that will get sorted on the field, it won't get sorted in the history books."
Meanwhile, Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters told Australian media there were no plans to introduce a period of extra-time to prevent a repeat of last weekend's frustrating stalemate.
"It is not something that has ever been considered by us," Peters said.
"We have rules in place for the Super Rugby finals that include extra-time, but for The Rugby Championship there are still a few weeks to go and we will have a clear-cut winner of the competition."
Wallabies lock Sam Carter summed up the disappointment of fans who witnessed the rain-swept spectacle at ANZ Stadium grind to an unsatisfactory outcome.
"Obviously Saturday was pretty disappointing when you've got 68,000 people sitting in the rain for 80 minutes and it's a draw. It's a tough thing to cop.
"It was kind of dead really," he said when asked of the players' emotions when referee Jaco Peyper ended the contest.
"When he blew (the whistle) I asked someone 'is that it?' and then we kind of stood around and walked off. It was pretty disappointing."
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Nic White, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper. Reserves: James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani.