Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie insists there’s a completely different vibe as his team aim to end their 28-year Eden Park drought on Saturday.
After 14 Auckland failures in the past 28 years, trips to Eden Park have become like Groundhog Day for the Wallabies.
But coach Ewen McKenzie insists there’s a completely different vibe as his team strive to end a drought and keep the Bledisloe series alive this weekend.
McKenzie has brought Australia’s squad over a day later and booked them into a different hotel – not the Crowne Plaza where they’ve stayed since the early 1990s.
“It doesn’t feel like deja vu which it has been for 20 years,” he said at the Pullman Hotel. “This has been a terrific environment coming in here.
“It just feels like a completely different visit to Auckland. We don’t want to be going to Eden Park feeling like it’s deja vu, do we?”
It may only be a change of digs but McKenzie is a master at thinking outside the square to challenge his team’s mindset, and lift their confidence.
“When you play a lot of football, the mental part of the game is significant,” he said.
“Everything that goes on during the week is relevant.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s mind games in the newspaper – it’s all relevant.”
Those mind games have also had a working over with rival coach Steve Hansen rolling a grenade into the Australian camp by saying the All Blacks can improve “10 or 12 notches” from last week’s 12-12 draw, while doubting how much more the Wallabies could lift.
McKenzie said the unchanged Wallabies just needed to get their basics right – fundamentals like drawing a man properly like Nathan Charles and Israel Folau failed to do when given try-scoring opportunities – to play better.
“We know we can improve a lot on last week so we’ve been focusing on that,” he said. “We know what we are capable of and we know we were off the pace at key moments.
“We expect to do better this week.
“We want (New Zealand) to bring their A-game because we are going to bring ours.”
Helping matters is forecast sunshine at the All Blacks’ spiritual home, lifting hopes of a classic Test match spectacle following the dour, tryless draw in the Sydney wet.
Australia tried their best to play running rugby in the difficult conditions and will again attack the All Blacks with the ball in hand.
After kicking away most of their limited possession last week, the hosts also want to do the same, with speedster Cory Jane especially hoping to test makeshift wingers Rob Horne and Pat McCabe.
“We didn’t take too much out of last week because it was a horrible game but, this week, we will see how good the two teams are,” Jane said.
“I would love to get some ball.”