Wallabies more dangerous than ever – Dowd

9:27 PM BST

All the talk about the under-performance of the Australian teams in Super Rugby can be forgotten now we’re in the Rugby Championship. As anyone who has been through the Test match mill can tell you, there is no comparison between Super Rugby and international football.

The Australian squad will be very, very competitive in Sydney on Saturday night. I don’t remember any time when Australians have been easybeats at that level. There’s something in their DNA that makes them respond to the stimulus of top-level sport, and that’s even more the case when they are classified as underdogs.

Bernard Foley carries the ball in the third Bledisloe Cup game of 2016 Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

They are under a lot of pressure without even thinking about winning — they need to win back Australian fans, to win back the public – but they are only ever 80 minutes from ridding themselves of a whole season of criticism and controversy by gaining a victory. In that frame of mind, they will be dangerous — and especially in Australia. And there’s also something in the match for those Wallabies players who have been part of the Western Force; they’re going to have something to prove.

For the All Blacks, it’s a case of controlling what they can control.

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They will know the Australians feel they have to win this Test if they are to have a shot a reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup; it’ll be a huge uphill battle to win the cup if they can’t win this one in Sydney, so they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. The expectation is that the All Blacks will retain the Bledisloe Cup again, but any sportsperson worth half a grain of salt knows nothing is ever a given. Forget about form – it comes down to a Test match and 80 minutes of rugby.

The All Blacks have a few players desperate to get back out there in a black jersey, and they will be loving the team environment. There’re some new boys in there, too, and that always adds to the enthusiasm.

Ben Smith will be champing at the bit to be involved after having to sit back and watch the last two Tests of the series against the British & Irish Lions.

The talking point remains the midfield, and that is probably going to be filled by Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams — and it will be good to get back to that pairing. Sonny Bill will be keen to get out there and put the last month behind him. Otherwise it is pretty much business as usual for the remainder of the side.

Sonny Bill Williams Matt King/Getty Images

It’s a shame Dane Coles will miss this Test, but better safe than sorry I’m sure everyone would agree. Codie Taylor has been making big strides. He started all three Tests against the Lions and did a great job for the Crusaders in their Super Rugby title win. Everyone wants to start a Test, and he has owned that starting role in Coles’ absence. It’s much better having a jersey that has No. 2 on the back rather than No. 16. Taylor’s been in great form and he’s done a really good job. And he’ll be feeling some pressure too with the likes of Nathan Harris and now Ricky Riccitelli behind him.

Riccitelli will be walking on air after getting into the All Blacks’ environment. It will be a dream come true for him. He was born in South Africa but moved to New Zealand when he was four, and he will be pumped to be rubbing shoulders with the players in the All Blacks’ environment to whom he has looked up for a long time.

It’s great to see emerging players coming through off the production line and getting an early taste of that camp. All young players bring enthusiasm when they first come in, and there is a natural balance when they get alongside the old heads with all the experience. It’s like the passing of the torch from the ‘elderly statesmen’ in the side who, five, six, seven or eight years ago were the young boys.

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Along those lines, the call-up of David Havili, while the result of bad luck for Jordie Barrett, is really pleasing. He has been a form fullback in Super Rugby for the Crusaders, and his call up is reward for his performances and an excellent example of the system at work.

I think Havili has got a long All Blacks career ahead of him. He’s 22 and may be a natural contender to replace 31-year-old Ben Smith in the future, especially if Damian McKenzie, as expected, concentrates on five-eighth. With Aaron Cruden gone, the All Blacks need a third five-eighth behind Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga — and McKenzie will play there for the Chiefs next year.

McKenzie might not be tall enough to play in the outsides, but it doesn’t matter at first five-eighths, while Havili and Jordie Barrett provide great long-term prospects at the back. Havili has got his foot in the door, and it is just a case of absorbing everything while in that environment.

Codie Taylor Hannah Peters/Getty Images

When you keep an absolute powerhouse like Julian Savea out of the side, as Rieko Ioane has done, you know you have a great opportunity. All Blacks management have earmarked him as a player with real talent for the future, and he’s already shown with the chances he has had so far that he is a force to be reckoned with.

It’s the same for Codie Taylor, although his case is through injury, but the players he and Ioane are replacing are world-class players. They have everything to play for, just like the Wallabies, and Sydney on Saturday night should be a great place to be.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/20347140/wallabies-only-80-minutes-ending-season-controversy-criticism
Wallabies more dangerous than ever – Dowd
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