New Zealand are expected to flex their muscle by bringing in Beauden Barrett as a replacement for Richie Mo’unga this Sunday, a depth of resources that left Australia’s Quade Cooper overawed
Quade Cooper knows all too well how it feels to lose against New Zealand, and he recognises a production line of top-class talent is the country’s key to its indomitable rugby spirit.
The All Blacks have reigned supreme in the Bledisloe Cup for almost two decades, thriving against the Wallabies despite New Zealand’s talent pool being a fraction of Australia ’s.
Dave Rennie’s side may have felt their fortunes would improve in Perth this Sunday after hearing Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga had remained behind for the births of their children.
But New Zealand promise to pack a mighty punch even without that absent trio, and Barrett in particular will be motivated to impress as the obvious replacement for Mo’unga at fly-half.
“That’s the thing about the All Blacks,” Cooper—who has lost 10 of his 12 games against New Zealand—told reporters.
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“You’ve got Richie Mo’unga staying at home for the birth of one of his children, and you have Beaudy come in – two of the best players in the world.
“How do you defend that? It’s one of those things that you can only put so much emphasis on one person and stop them. It’s just more about slowing them down, and the ABs as a whole.
“They’ve been a phenomenal team over the past three games and we’re very much more focused on trying to nail down our stuff.”
All Blacks coach Ian Foster is blessed to have such an array of talents at his disposal, and even a New Zealand second XV would give most national teams a run for their money.
Even if Barrett wasn’t available to fill in for Mo’unga, Japan-bound Damian McKenzie is another elite option to move from full-back, further evidence of the squad’s peerless supply chain.
As for the other absentees, another of the Barrett brothers, Scott, is on course to fill in for Whitelock while TJ Perenara and Brad Weber offer superb Smith alternatives at scrum-half.
The Wallabies can no longer win this year’s Bledisloe series, but the Rugby Championship is still an open contest despite suffering a record 57-22 defeat to New Zealand in their opener.
It’s been suggested Rennie could offer Cooper a route back into the Australia team four years after his last international appearance, but the 33-year-old remains in the dark.
Asked whether his coach had given him any indication as to whether his Australia exodus was due to end, Cooper replied: “Nah, not yet, mate.
“I think he [Rennie] keeps everybody on their toes. When we’re training, the teams are always quite mixed up.
“You look around and see where Hoops [Michael Hooper] or Marika [Koroibete] is and try and get some indication there, but other than that, the boys are just all fighting for spots.
“Rods [Izack Rodda] sort of alluded to the competition throughout the locks, the halves, and everywhere across the board.
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“There’s some fantastic players here who are putting in a lot of work and a lot of effort to become better players and put their hands up for selection.”
The Wallabies managed to get the better of the All Blacks the last time these rivals met in Australia, hopeful that home advantage will play its part once again at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
The Rugby Championship will then move to Queensland for four back-to-back weekends when New Zealand’s depth and durability will be put to the test across the Tasman.