Monday, 19 November, 2018

Wallabies ace Hooper fit for Bledisloe Cup

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick drinks from the Bledisloe Cup. No Wallaby has supped from the cup since 2002 Phil Walter All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick drinks from the Bledisloe Cup. No Wallaby has supped from the cup since 2002
Shannon Reynolds | 15 August, 2018, 15:55

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen rates the 2018 Wallabies more risky than last year's model and isn't backing away from branding them favourites for their opening clash.

The return of Stephen Moore from injury in 2015 meant that Hooper resumed his service as vice-captain of the Wallabies through the Rugby World Cup and into 2016.

He said the Wallabies should be better prepared this time after their tough series against Ireland and the trial match they played to tune up for the Test.

He felt the Wallabies were benefiting from the work of skills coach Michael Byrne, who formerly held a similar position with New Zealand rugby. "Whoever they put in any position they step up and get the job done", he said.

"I think they have learnt from that haven't they and they've had a game, ' Hansen said". "I want the guys that are not playing in that given week to go and play some footy, whether it be club or NRC (National Rugby Championship), depending on the time of year".

Asked why he thought Australia's Bledisloe Cup drought could end this year, Beale harked back to the 23-18 over the All Blacks in the third 2017 Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane.

"Once that was sorted out it was a titanic struggle for the other two games so I think it's going to be a great contest and three relay good games".

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The world champions have won 26 of their last 33 meetings but Hansen insists the rivalry between the two nations will not lose its intensity.

The exclusion from the squad of NSW Waratahs back Curtis Rona increases the likelihood utility back Reece Hodge will start at outside centre, though fullback Israel Folau could still be a contender.

"I can't go telling you that, Cheik (Wallabies coach Michael Cheika) will fix it up, ' Hansen quipped". "No, I think he (Hodge) is a good footballer".

Possible Wallabies line up: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Lukhan Tui, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio.

"We were just talking about it during the week, how big the crowds were and how much the support was behind Australia especially when we doing well".

"I really enjoyed going out and watching the Wallabies obviously in a golden era back then and winning lots of games", Hodge said.

"(You need) awareness that it's coming and being aware of where he is on the field but more so we've got a couple of plans around that this week, so if that comes it'll be part of the game and we'll look to get up and shut those down".

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