x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Wallabies aim to stop All Blacks' run

Nathan Sharpe, the Australia captain, says any team can be beaten and says the Wallabies are primed to stop New Zealand's win streak at 17.

Israel Dagg, centre, and his All Blacks teammates look to extend their 17-game win streak to 18 when they meet Australia in the final Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday.
Israel Dagg, centre, and his All Blacks teammates look to extend their 17-game win streak to 18 when they meet Australia in the final Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday.


Nathan Sharpe, the Australia captain, is unbowed by New Zealand's formidable winning run and said the All Blacks were beatable ahead of Saturday's third and final Bledisloe Cup Test at Brisbane.

New Zealand have strung together 16 consecutive victories against all-comers and are one Test win away from joining the 1969 All Blacks and 1998 South African Springboks with 17 successive victories. Lithuania hold the record with a run of 18 wins.

The World Cup champions are strong favourites to win today but Sharpe, injury-hit Australia's fourth captain this year, said the Wallabies were up for the challenge.

"Every team is beatable," the 111-Test lock said. "We have to play the best game we have played this year - and by a way as well.

"It's close to the best preparation for a long time that I can remember. If we can translate that into a performance on the field, we'll give ourselves a shot.

"We like a challenge and it fits the Australian psyche a little bit. When the backs are to the wall the guys like to show their character."

New Zealand have already retained the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy, which they have held since 2003, following 27-19 and 22-0 victories in August.

The world No 2 ranked Wallabies were the last side to beat the rampaging All Blacks, 25-20 at this weekend's Brisbane venue 14 months ago.

But the Australians have been forced to field far below their best side and are without the injured Will Genia, David Pocock, Quade Cooper, James O'Connor, Stephen Moore and James Horwill.

Further compounding the Wallabies' woes were new injuries to the winger Digby Ioane (knee), the prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and their back-up hooker Saia Faingaa.

Australia have been forced to use 12 debutant players this season.

Sharpe, 34, who had planned to retire after this year's Super Rugby competition, was asked to delay his retirement plans to lead the Wallabies on their end-of-year trip to Europe next month given the catalogue of injuries to senior players.

Robbie Deans, who has led the Wallabies to just three wins in 17 encounters with New Zealand since he became Australian rugby's first foreign coach in 2008, has urged his side to take the game to the All Blacks. "Nothing we bring will be of any surprise to them this weekend," he said.

"They've taken their game to another level, there's no doubt about that, as evidenced by the numbers. We've got to be better ... and that's what we're chasing.

"At some point, to do well against them, you've got to take the initiative. You can't wait for it to land in your lap."

But Kiwi Deans knows New Zealand will also be "desperate" this weekend. The Wallabies denied them a 17th successive Test win in Hong Kong in 2010 and they will be mindful of falling short again, while it will also be the hooker Keven Mealamu's 100th Test.

"We have looked at Australia and we know they have had hardships, quite a few injuries, but they have got one or two back and they have got what would probably be the biggest forward pack they have ever put on the park," said Steve Hansen, the New Zealand coach.

"We know that when we get our opportunities we will have to take them."

It has been a difficult time for Hansen after the death of his father, Des, 78, this week from the effects of a stroke.


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