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Wallabies plan to target new All Black Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa made his international debut against England in June

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Article Published: Saturday 16 August 2014|

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The Wallabies say that they will target young All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa in their Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series opener in Sydney on Saturday.

Australia's Wallabies are hoping to end 11 years of Bledisloe Cup pain against the All Blacks who have held the cup since 2003.

New Zealand's All Blacks had to promote Malakai Fekitoa into their starting line up after Conrad Smith withdrew and flew back to New Zealand to be at home with his expectant wife.

The loss of thirty-two-year-old Smith is a blow for the All Blacks as along with Richie McCaw and centre partner Ma'a Nonu he is the most experienced player in their team.

All Black coach Steve Hansen said that Smith's wife Lee-Ann, had been due to give birth in a couple of weeks but that the pregnancy had advanced.

"It looks like she's going to come a little bit early... she started showing signs last night," Hansen told reporters Friday.

"If it goes really well, he could possibly be back. But we're not holding our breath on that."

The All Blacks have won their last 17 tests and have equaled the 17-Test winning runs of the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks and if they win on Saturday they will make history.

All Black captain Richie McCaw said that he was not concerned about Fekitoa stepping up to cover for Smith.

"It's happened enough times over the past and just look at the last Test we played where Conrad broke his thumb so... Malakai was the last guy who played at centre in our last Test so him slotting in will be fine," McCaw said.

"At the end of the day, if you let those things influence what happens on the weekend, I think you haven't really got your environment set up right.

"So hopefully everyone's aware of what's going on and prepared as such and they'll be ready to go."

McCaw appeared to be more concerned about getting redemption for the Crusaders last minute loss to the Waratahs in the Super Rugby final.

The Waratahs won the Super Rugby title with a late Bernard Foley penalty that came from a last-minute ruck infringement by McCaw.

"Just from a personal point of view, being over here a couple of weeks ago for Super Rugby, to get a chance to come back, have a crack at Bledisloe is pretty exciting," McCaw said.

"It's going to be a good challenge. I think we always realised that, so we're looking forward to it.

"The Wallabies are like us. They had three Tests in June that went alright -- three wins -- but now with the season ahead, everyone wants to get off to a good start.

"So we certainly need to improve from where we were at and I'm sure from what you hear from the Wallabies, they need to do the same. That makes for a pretty good match-up over the next couple of weeks."

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said that while Fekitoa had a "cracking year with the Highlanders" they would target he rookie international centre.

"We understand it's a new player who will come in -- Fekitoa -- and you've got to try out those areas and see what you do," Hooper told reporters.

 
 
 
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