'Not focused on history' - Hooper hopes youth will help end Bledisloe drought

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Michael Hooper (Getty Images)
Michael Hooper (Getty Images)

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper on Friday said he was excited by what his young team can achieve, but warned the error count has to drop in their must-win Bledisloe Cup clash against the All Blacks.

With experienced backs Matt To'omua and James O'Connor ruled out injured, coach Dave Rennie is gambling on four debutants to help derail the New Zealand juggernaut in Sydney on Saturday.

Two of them are in the run-on side, flyhalf Noah Lolesio and inside centre Irae Simone, with flanker Fraser McReight and scrumhalf Tate McDermott set to come off the bench.

"I'm not focused on history, I'm focused on tomorrow night," said Hooper of Australia's failure to win the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup since 2002.

"And we have a really good opportunity in Sydney, we have a really good, exciting young team that's playing some pretty good footy. We're looking to improve tomorrow night."

Australia head into the third of the four-Test series, which is also the first game of the Tri Nations with Argentina, after drawing the opening match in Wellington and losing 27-7 in Auckland.

They were punished at Eden Park for a poor defensive performance, with too many handling errors, missed tackles and what coach Dave Rennie said was a lack of communication.

Veteran prop James Slipper gave the squad a pep talk during the week and Hooper said they were confident of cutting out the mistakes.

"We hope to play the sort of rugby we've been developing over the last couple of weeks and we've seen three or four really good parts of it," he said.

"We talked about being accurate a lot during the week, the way we kicked the ball to the opposition, the way we were turned over through our own errors and the way the Kiwis put pressure on us."

"We need to control our game a bit better," he added. "They took their opportunities well (in Auckland), you can't give them too many. We want to pressure them to give us some opportunities, which we think we're capable of."

Rennie admitted he had an eye on the future in deciding to pick four rookies for such a crucial match, but Hooper said he had confidence in their abilities.

"Dave's been big on earning the opportunity and these guys have earned that opportunity. I mean, it's the start of a career for some of these guys, the start of a journey," he said.

"They've worked hard for a Super Rugby outfit and now they get a chance to do it on one of our biggest stages."


All Blacks skipper Sam Cane said his team planned to make life difficult for the newcomers as New Zealand look to seal the Bledisloe Cup on Australian soil for the first time in 11 years.

"The best way to unsettle them would be us as a forward pack doing a quality job at set piece disrupting their ball," he said. "Us getting off the line and taking away their time and space."

But he also acknowledged the debutants as "quality young footballers" and noted: "If you think about most people who debut they have a pretty good game because it's a realisation of a dream."

New Zealand have made three changes to their run-on side, handing number eight Hoskins Sotutu a starting debut, welcoming back veteran lock Sam Whitelock and recalling prop Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Cane said they had no injury worries and were daring to dream about lifting the Bledisloe Cup again.

"It'll be awesome, pretty wicked to be able to hold that trophy up. But we know it will be a heck of challenge," he said.

"We're not spending too much energy or time focusing on the end result, we're more focused on the process of how we can go about getting there."



15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Hunter Paisami

New Zealand

15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.

Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Reiko Ioane

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