Only six starters from World Cup defeat to New Zealand but Australia coach says All Blacks counterpart 'fishing' by suggesting he lacks faith in the old players.
Robbie Deans will let newlook Wallabies do the talking
Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, refused to take the bait after being accused of lacking confidence in his World Cup side for tomorrow's opening clash of the Rugby Championship in Sydney.
The Wallabies scored a rare win over the world champions in Brisbane last year, but the All Blacks are predicted to dominate the newly expanded southern hemisphere competition with South Africa and debutants Argentina.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's jibe that picking only six starters from their 20-6 semi-final defeat by New Zealand at last year's Rugby World Cup was like an admission from Deans that he had got his selections wrong.
Either that or he wanted to change his style of game and did not trust those players to get the job done, Hansen said.
"Steve is a very good fisherman – he loves fishing," Deans told reporters today before the showdown at the Olympic stadium.
Deans said the Wallabies were fired up to upset New Zealand and clinch the Bledisloe Cup – the annual trophy contested between the Antipodean neighbours – for the first time since 2002.
"Obviously we'd love to and I'm part of that," he said. "Clearly it's time. It's pretty straightforward really. It's far too long.
"But we're getting it done, the boys have worked hard, we understand that the All Blacks won't let go lightly.
"That's the nature of the way they push their work.
"This group I can assure you is really looking forward to kick off."
Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain, brushed off the media hype surrounding the game.
"Teams change," he shrugged. "One week can be a long time in sport.
"You look at the personnel they have got there at the moment, they are all quality individuals and we are in for a big challenge and, from my point of view, that's all that I'm looking at."
Deans said home advantage in the opening game would be crucial. The Wallabies face the return leg at Eden Park in Auckland next week where they have not beaten the All Blacks since 1986.
"It's really important now for both sides. It's a new format, it's going to be a tough championship, there's no doubt about that," he said. "Any side that gets off to a good start will get the benefit of that. Every outing is going to be key because there'll be nothing given."
Meanwhile, South Africa intend to be party poopers tomorrow when Argentina debut in the southern hemisphere rugby union championship following many years as outcasts.
After 16 seasons of Tri Nations fare featuring Australia, New Zealand and the Springboks, intense lobbying by the Pumas has been rewarded with inclusion in the renamed, double-round Rugby Championship.
A 2005 draw with the British and Irish Lions and third place at the 2007 World Cup gave Argentine officials the ammunition needed to press for regular competition, and now the real battle begins at Newlands stadium in Cape Town.
Few doubt the ability of the Pumas to compete at home against the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks – ranked one, two and three respectively in the world – but there is less certainty about the ability to cope far from the Pampas.
“The Pumas have a great scrum, they are great maulers and I have noticed that their strength has improved, as well as fitness levels,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said.
“Having watched a lot of footage of Argentina games and coached two players in the present squad while I was head coach of Leicester four years ago, I know how they play.”
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis, one of three South African survivors from a 63-9 Johannesburg romp when the countries last met in 2008, is relishing the chance to tackle new Championship opponents. “It will be nice to have a different team to play against and new opponents to square up to,” he said ahead of round 14 between the Springboks and the Pumas with the two-time world champions having won all the previous 13 Tests.
“There is a lot of respect between us and them and a healthy rivalry on the rugby field. South Africa helped develop Argentine rugby, so it is fitting that we play them first in the Championship.”
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