A dejected Australia during game 1 of the Bledisloe Cup between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, August 19, 2017. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLYChristchurch: The Wallabies don’t usually spend a full week in New Zealand before a Test match but after what happened on the weekend, now is the perfect time for players to get away from Australia and clear their minds.
In the aftermath of the Wallabies’ 54-34 defeat to the All Blacks in Sydney, players have taken the loss hard given there was genuine optimism going into the first Test of what is now a non-interrupted international season.
The Wallabies have opted to set up base in Christchurch, four and a half hours drive north of Dunedin, the venue for Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup Test.
Christchurch is a dilapidated city, still recovering from the devastating earthquakes of 2011.
Hence, the squad will relish a few days of solace and some time to begin soul-searching following what was arguably the side’s toughest game for several years.
Daggers are not just being thrown at the Wallabies from disgruntled fans but also by a number of New Zealand media outlets.
Chris Rattue from the New Zealand Herald has called for “hopeless” coach Michael Cheika to be sacked.
“The Australian coach has an aggressive demeanour and talks a good game, but the results – particularly against the big guns – are pretty hopeless and don’t appear to have any upward swing involved,” Rattue wrote.
The solution being put forward is for a New Zealander to coach the Wallabies, something that even given the state of the game in Australia, would not sit well with the fans who pay their money. Or would it?
It is not just Cheika who is being hounded but also defence coach Nathan Grey, except by Australia rugby lovers who cannot get their head around why the Wallabies have gone backwards since the World Cup.
For as much as the keyboard warriors are angry the Wallabies conceded try after try on Saturday at ANZ Stadium, Kiwi fans are equally as filthy that their team was so meek in the second half.
Here’s a statistic that might boost the Wallabies’ spirits a little.
The All Blacks have conceded more than 34 points just twice in their last 167 matches.
Speaking to a taxi driver shortly after arriving at Christchurch airport, it was obvious he was more frustrated at the All Blacks’ poor defensive effort in the second half than the overall result.
If a casual rugby fan was as annoyed about that, imagine how the All Blacks are feeling about it.
Some say New Zealand took their foot off the gas but such is the All Blacks mindset they will be upset they did not put 70 points on the Wallabies.
The message out of Wallabies camp will be that the focus has to be on themselves, not on the All Blacks and their capabilities in front of a home crowd.
Human nature says players’ confidence will be shattered. After a month-long preparation, where we were told they were as fit as ever, all the Wallabies have to show for it is the cold shoulder from a large portion of supporters.
The Wallabies could, however, be motivated by fear. Countless people have laid the boot in after the weekend’s result and one can only imagine what will happen if Australia front up at Forsyth Barr Stadium without their head in the game.
And then there is the actual goal of trying to save the Bledisloe Cup.
No doubt Cheika will continue to back his men in public and argue the Wallabies can come away from New Zealand with a win, but it will be interesting to see if players are as bold with their statements given the cracks that were exposed in Sydney.
Some bookies have the Wallabies at the incredible odds of $13 compared to the All Blacks at $1.02.
All the talk has not been on who, but how many.
Australia has lost its last 20 matches on New Zealand soil and the last time they tasted success there was in 2001 in Dunedin.
The Australian public is sick of hearing explanations from the Wallabies about why they are not up to scratch but the simple fact is this: a win in Dunedin would completely change the narrative of this year.
The Wallabies have five days in the cold of enemy territory to conjure up something special.
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