'We want to be that team': Wallabies again confront Eden Park hoodoo

Fri, Sep 23, 2022, 4:43 AM
by AAP
The Wallabies and All Blacks played out an all-time classic in Melbourne

For the Wallabies, an Eden Park triumph this year - as unlikely as it may be - would be a bittersweet success.

Dave Rennie's side know well the statistics and the history, if only because they are reminded on every visit. Not in 36 years have the Wallabies side saluted, a run of 22 straight losses.

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The last triumph came courtesy of a 22-9 win in 1986 under Alan Jones, meaning there is not a single squad member who was alive when Australia last beat the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Captain James Slipper comes closest - as the squad's oldest member, and the only current player to have won at the ground as a Wallaby.

Australia's years of pain in Auckland includes the 2011 World Cup, when Robbie Deans' side lost the semi-final to the hosts.

The next week, a 22-year-old Slipper suited up at Eden Park for a 21-18 defeat of Wales in the third place playoff, giving him a rare taste of success at the venue.

"Most of the boys have won here at Super Rugby," the 34-year-old said at the ground on Friday, as if to say it could be done.

"Historically it has been tough for us. But we haven't touched on it too much.

"At some point, one team will win here and we want to be that team."

The bittersweet nature of the 2022 contest is that, should the Wallabies finally beat the All Blacks, victory would not bring with it the Bledisloe Cup.

New Zealand's 39-37 victory in Melbourne a week ago ensured the trophy stays in Kiwi hands for a 20th straight year.

"It's something that kind of hurts me," Slipper admitted.

"I'd throw in most of my games to win the Bledisloe.

"There's plenty riding on this. We haven't won here since the 80s.

"It's going to be a big effort from us to get the result but we're pretty hell-bent on getting the performance in ... history's against us but we're coming in confident that we can perform."

Much of Australia's faith is built on Bernard Foley's superb showing in Melbourne, three years since his last Test.

Rennie said the 33-year-old put on a "hell of a performance", backing him ahead of fit-again Noah Lolesio for Auckland.

"It's great," Slipper said of his fellow veteran,

"The little piggy played really well on Thursday.

"It's vital for us as a squad, especially going into the World Cup having lost a couple of experienced players ... We've lost Quadey (Cooper), we've lost Samu (Kerevi).

"(Foley's) been a massive addition to our squad, just that experience, having that voice within the group."

There remains the mathematical chance the Wallabies could emerge with a trophy this weekend.

In a tight Rugby Championship, a big Australian win would put them into the equation for the southern hemisphere title, though they would also need a comfortable Argentina win in Durban. Slipper said the Wallabies had not given up hope.

"There's always a belief. If there's a chance of winning it, we're always going to strive," he said.

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