Wallabies coach throws a 'subtle jab' at Hansen

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2014
Ewen McKenzie
Getty
EWEN MCKENZIE: "If you get an opportunity to sack a maul you sack it; that's what you do. We did it."

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This time, Ewen McKenzie couldn't bite his tongue.

Two weeks in a row All Blacks coach Steve Hansen fired barbs his way - the first about the Australian Rugby Union influencing Kurtley Beale's selection and this week questioning how much more the Wallabies had to give.

Before yesterday, McKenzie wasn't biting. But, finally, the Wallabies coach couldn't help throwing out one subtle jab.

''Steve has got lots of thoughts. I enjoy reading his thoughts,'' McKenzie began.

''Last week he was picking the team. This week he's wondering about our improvement. We'll just concentrate on what we're about. That worked alright for us last week.

''I see him in the tunnel before the game. We just have a smile and get on with it. I'm more interested in getting our preparation right.

''He wasn't laughing at the end of the game last week, so I didn't share a laugh with him, no.''

McKenzie's final retort summed up a typically confident Wallabies camp and carried added intrigue as he explained the rationale for making a point of changing the team's hotel in Auckland.

''The mental part of the game is significant,'' he said.

''It doesn't matter whether it's mind games in the newspaper ... how the players feel, how they rest, everything that goes on in the week is significant.

''It feels really good to come here, different hotel and very different feel about the preparations. Only a couple of players have stayed here before.

"It's a very different feeling. It doesn't feel like deja vu, which is what it has been for 20 years for me personally.

''It feels like a completely different visit to Auckland. We don't want to be going to Eden Park feeling like it's deja vu, given the history.''

Tonight we'll find out whether McKenzie's peculiar plans have any tangible affect, or were merely clutching at straws.

For now, though, he believes his side, which is currently on an eight match unbeaten run, are improving.

''Our confidence has been increasing for a period of time now. We didn't come out of that game [draw in Sydney] patting ourselves on the back and thinking all was good. We were disappointed we didn't win it so when we looked at the video we saw lots of things we could do better.

"We were off the pace at key moments last week, there were key decisions we didn't get right.

''The All Blacks were going for a world record last week and they didn't get there. They have been the most consistent side for 100 years ... but it doesn't mean they win every game so we look forward to the challenge.''

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Central to the Wallabies' hopes of breaking their 28-year Eden Park hoodoo will be the ability of their forward pack to again compete.

Their decision-making also needs to be more composed, with captain Michael Hooper admitting in hindsight he should have taken two crucial shots at goal.

''The try could have changed the whole outcome of that game,'' he said.

''It's good you have situations like that. It's new for me I am learning as a captain and you get to look back and say maybe you could have done this or did that.''

- Stuff

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