Quade Cooper didn't want to talk about it but at least Drew Mitchell was happy to expand on his return to the Wallabies starting line-up for the first time since his own injury-marred World Cup campaign last year.
The experienced wing was the beneficiary of Kurtley Beale's bumbling Bledisloe Cup performance in Sydney last weekend when the Wallabies run-on 15 was named yesterday.
Mitchell is promoted from the reserves to take new fullback Adam Ashley Cooper's slot on the right flank while Beale may yet be included on a seven-man bench when it is confirmed by coach Robbie Deans today.
The 28-year-old has already played 58 tests but naturally the thrill of making a fully-fledged comeback from chronic ankle and hamstring injuries resonates despite the ominous assignment looming at Eden Park on Saturday night.
"Obviously it's been a bit of a long journey for me with the (leg) injury, so getting my first test start is significant to a point."
"But this isn't the end place for me that I want to get to. I want to go out there and compete and make an impact on the team."
Mitchell earned his last cap against Russia during World Cup pool play, it was a miracle he even made it to the tournament after breaking an ankle during the 2011 Super Rugby season.
His subsequent hamstring injury never drew the sympathy Cooper received when his knee gave way in the bronze medal play-off with Wales but Mitchell's rehabilitation has been similarly painstaking as the ankle continued to give him grief.
Mitchell recorded even less Super Rugby appearances than the five Cooper managed for the Reds but with rookie wings Joe Tomane and Cooper Vuna currently sidelined after making their debuts in the June international window the Waratahs finisher was a logical choice for the 30-man Rugby Championship squad.
Mitchell was named as outside back cover at ANZ Stadium last weekend but was not required; seven days later he will be in the front and centre against Hosea Gear.
"I think physically I'm probably there. It's just a matter of getting that confidence. You get that through performance," he said, adding he was confident of lasting 80 minutes of high-intensity.
Cooper's issues with the All Blacks are well-documented and probably contributed to his refusal to entertain questions about his selection at first five-eighth - his dismal performance in last October's semifinal and previous altercations with Richie McCaw guarantee a hostile reception.
But Mitchell also has a grim history against the All Blacks -- he has celebrated only one trans-Tasman victory in 11 attempts and during the 49-28 thrashing in Melbourne in 2010 he became the first Wallaby sent off for 32 years.
Admittedly the yellow card for Mitchell's late tackle on McCaw was harsh and when he prevented the All Blacks taking a quick lineout shortly after half time to earn another caution - and automatic red - he copped arguably the softest send-offs in test history.
Mitchell has fonder memories of that year's final Bledisloe in Hong Kong - his only winning feeling after fellow wing James O'Connor won the dead rubber with a last-gasp converted try.
He missed last year's abbreviated series through injury and also the World Cup semifinal so he is hopeful of recording back-to-back wins - an achievement that would be even more significant given the Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks in Auckland since 1986.
Australian betting agency TAB Sportsbet turned party poopers though when quoting the Wallabies at $A7.00 - the longest odds offered on a head-to-head market with the All Blacks since they started framing markets on the Bledisloe in 1999.
The All Blacks are raging $A1.09 favourites while the Wallabies have also been granted a 15.5 point head start.
"That's pretty juicy," said Mitchell when told of the bookmakers' pessimism.
"That's the position we're in. That's the history and we have an opportunity to go out on Eden Park and change a hoodoo that's gone for too long."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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