Rugby Championship News

Wallabies look for 2003 re-run





The Wallabies are quietly planning yet another usurping of rugby’s most feared team the All Blacks, as they improve steadily towards the World Cup.

In 2003, the Wallabies were handed fifty points by the All Blacks in Sydney in a corresponding match.

Later in that year’s Tri-Nations, the Wallabies pulled it back to a four point deficit in Auckland, and then they promptly toppled the perennial World Cup favourites in the semi-final of the 2003 showpiece by 22 to 10.

And tomorrow’s Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup clash is once again a part of that self-same process for skipper Stirling Mortlock and coach John Connolly in 2007, another World Cup year.

“I look back to 2003 and we actually had some pretty bad results against the All Blacks that year and when it came to the semi-final we still had the belief and the ability to implement our game plan to get a result on the night,” Mortlock told the Australian Associated Press.

“There’s no doubt we targeted this game as a very important one of the Wallabies moving forward. It’s important but I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all.”

Connolly pointed out that this game is a vital clash, but not because of its place in the build-up to the World Cup.

“Win or lose this game has no bearing on the World Cup. Every game is important on it’s own.”

But All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has said that this All Blacks side has learnt from the mistakes of 2003.

“[In 2003] we started to play some good rugby and thought it was all going to happen. [We] turned up at the World Cup and it didn’t.
Sometimes the most talented team doesn’t win it. It is the best team of the tournament that wins it,” McCaw told Rugbyheaven.

“Where we are now, we want to do it right, now,” he said of winning. “But we also realise that what we do now isn’t going to be good enough down the track.

“We are learning from last time [2003]. We thought perhaps we had the game that was going to do the trick and it didn’t.”

But McCaw agrees with Connolly, in that Saturday’s match has an importance all of its own, with the trans-Tasman fixture being yet another Bledisloe Cup contest.

“It’s really important,” McCaw said. “Outside the [World] Cup at the end of the year, it is the most important [title] we play for as a nation. We hadn’t had it, when we got it back in 2003, since 1998. It’s not an easy thing to get back, especially with only two [Bledisloe] Test matches in a year.”

The rejuvenated spirit in Australian rugby is mainly due to the seemingly significant improvement of their forward pack, after a solid showing on June 16 against the Springboks in Cape Town.

Mortlock says that the pack will be looking for another good showing against the New Zealanders, after some hard work over the past couple of seasons.

“I think our forward pack, in particular, has been working extremely hard over the last 12 to 18 months and has been showing dramatic signs of improving along the way,” Mortlock said.

“Certainly I’m aware that the pack is keen on showing improvement again against New Zealand.”

McCaw concurs.

“I have been impressed with the way the [Wallabies’] forward pack went about things and the way the South Africans talked about being sore and battered the next week (against New Zealand) probably indicated that.”

“I am sure [on Saturday] it’s going to be another physical battle, the difference maybe that both teams want to use the ball a bit wider too. It will be interesting to see what kind of match we get.”

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