x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kepu counts on Wallabies aggression to counter All Blacks

Whoever takes the title in Brisbane will get a psychological edge for the World Cup and the Australia prop wants his side to get that against his home country.

Sekope Kepu knows five different hakas since his college days in New Zealand and is looking forward to taking on the All Blacks.
Sekope Kepu knows five different hakas since his college days in New Zealand and is looking forward to taking on the All Blacks.

Sekope Kepu, the Australia prop and a former New Zealand junior international, believes the winner of Saturday's Tri Nations showdown with New Zealand in Brisbane will take a psychological edge into next month's World Cup.

Playing against the All Blacks for the first time in Australia's recent 16-point loss in Auckland, Kepu was part of a scrum that provided one of the few areas in which the Wallabies could match their trans-Tasman rivals.

While the Kiwis were dominant in nearly every other aspect of the contest, Kepu claims his side can bridge the gap by turning up at Suncorp Stadium ready to be aggressive and relentless.

And, without fear of raising the stakes in a match that will already decide the Tri Nations, the powerful loose-head prop said the winner would take the advantage to New Zealand. "There's a lot on the line. Obviously a Tri Nations title, but also the psychological edge of going into the World Cup as the winners. I think it's a massive boost," Kepu said.

Since failing to compete with the All Blacks' physicality at Eden Park, the Wallabies have altered their preparations accordingly.

The elevation to the starting side of the towering locks, Dan Vickerman and Radike Samo - who yesterday caused half-back Will Genia to require six stitches in a training accident - shows Robbie Deans, the coach, has zeroed in on the need to match firepower.

"We've added some size this week with Dan Vickerman coming in. [Vickerman and Samo] are really good aggressive players and that's something really that we're looking to build into," said Kepu.

"I think they'll add some more dimensions out the back there; a bit of X factor and size - it'll be good.

"In terms of the training, the physicality is massive and something we have to bring to the game. The boys are really serious and really looking forward to the challenge."

For Kepu, whose parents still live in Auckland, there will be added motivation from facing the haka, and in playing against players he grew up competing alongside in under-age representative New Zealand sides.

"A few weeks ago, for my family and for me, it was probably one of the biggest days of my life to come up against the All Blacks," Kepu said.

"It was really special, and to get to do that again is something I'm looking forward to. It's special."

"I embrace the haka. I love it. At college, we learnt the haka and we did it every morning.

"I kind of know five different hakas, so it's always in the back pocket there, and to actually face it is something that you don't [normally] get to do."

Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that the Wallabies will play a one-off Test match against Wales in December.

The two sides will meet in Cardiff on December 3 to play for the James Bevan Trophy.

* Press Association