THE All Blacks will be on high alert for the wounded Wallabies to get punchy in the second Test in Dunedin after the corresponding fixture last year turned spiteful to trigger a “Cold War” between the teams.
But even if that was a chance of happening — and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika played it down — Australia will go into the decisive Bledisloe Cup showdown without their chief enforcer Adam Coleman after losing the lock on match eve.
Coleman was ruled out with a shoulder injury after the big Force forward aggravated the problem on Thursday at training. His place in the second row was taken by Rory Arnold and 21-year-old Queenslander Izack Rodda was called onto the bench for a likely Test debut.
Cheika played down the loss of Coleman, but captain Michael Hooper conceded the absence of one of their best players was a “huge blow”.
The All Blacks seem more concerned about blows coming from the fists of their opponents after captain Kieran Read admitted they’d spoken about how to handle an outburst of aggression and niggle.
Last year the Wallabies turned up the physicality in the second Test in Wellington after getting smashed by 34 points a week earlier in Sydney.
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After the bug-gate drama, Kiwi media said post-game that trans-Tasman relations fell to “Cold War” levels.
“It’s been through our minds, we’ve got to expect it,” Read said about Australia repeating those tactics.
“We’ll adapt to whatever comes our way. If we can go out there and try and play our game and play it fair, play it clean, and play it really hard, a lot of that extra stuff doesn’t come into the game.”
Arguably the most serious incident in Wellington was the alleged eye-gouge by Owen Franks on Kane Douglas, but the All Black escaped a charge.
Cheika watered down the prospect of the Wallabies emerging onto Forsyth Barr Stadium with a plan to niggle.
“If you look closely at every game, there’s plenty of that going on from both sides. Sometimes she heats up and sometimes it’s going too fast to even heat up.”
Coleman prides himself on setting the tone for the pack and Cheika wants all “15 players” to answer the call in offsetting the injured forward’s absence while Hooper backed Arnold to step up to the plate.
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“In Super Rugby he does that week-to-week and we need that transition with Adam out, to come in there and fill that, not huge void, but definitely something that Adam prides his game on is that physical side, especially around the ruck,” Hooper said.
Rodda is another raw-boned bruiser, who only debuted for the Reds this year but along with Lukhan Tui, has impressed Cheika immensely.
Asked if he thought 120kg, 2.04m Rodda was ready for Test rugby, Hooper said: “You’re never ready. You’re in the best possible position you can be in and you’ve just got to get out there and do what you do. I’ve been really impressed with Rodds throughout the year. He’s just got to get in the jersey and do his thing.”
The Wallabies have surprisingly bounced back from a 50-point loss to win their next match three of those four occasions.
“We’re playing for Australia. I don’t think we should be driven off what happened the week before,” Cheika said.
“We can’t dwell in that past too much because that’s not where we’re living, we’re living in the now.”
Borrowing from iconic Aussie movie the Castle, the Otago Daily Times had a headline about the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup chances: “Tell them they’re dreaming.”
Cheika responded: “I think no one does (expect us to do anything), to be honest. It’s up to us to write our own chapters if we want to change that attitude around. People would be justified to think that.”
Source: sports dailytelegraph