Eyes on the prize: Michael Hooper would love to get his hands on the Bledisloe Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie believes the Wallabies will show how much they have developed as performers and entertainers in their one year under him when they play the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.
As McKenzie prepared for the first Rugby Championship match of the year, at ANZ Stadium, he said he was in charge of a different team to that which, in his first Test as coach, lost 47-29 to the All Blacks at the same venue.
"It's different because we have a base game that everyone knows, respects and we know works," McKenzie said. "We have a fair idea about what they [the All Blacks] are about, but we can't predict every scenario or what they might bring to the table.
Man on a mission: Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. Photo: Getty Images
"So we will have to adapt on the night, but we have to make sure we bring our ‘A game’ and … that puts the pressure on them."
McKenzie also understands the significance of Saturday's fixture. It is the first Bledisloe Cup match of 2014 and it is being played at ANZ Stadium where, two Saturdays ago, the Waratahs won their first Super Rugby title before a 61,000-plus crowd.
The Waratahs' brand of rugby has shown to be as exciting as it is effective.
McKenzie said the Wallabies game, too, was developing into one that should please.
"The Tahs have a very specific method of play," he said. "The Brumbies have a base method, too, but we saw variation to that towards the end of the season.
"The Reds have their style, the Force the same thing. None of them are the same. So you have to morph them into something. We did all that last year.
"We went through that exercise last year and it was complicated at times. But by the end of the year we had settled on a way that suits the players we have got and the mindset. And the players are happy with how we go about it.
"If you go and look at the stats we have been very successful in scoring tries and making line breaks. In terms of attack at Test level we have been pretty effective."
McKenzie said the Wallabies’ domestic three-Test series whitewash over France in June showed the side has developed since last season. "We had the middle Test [won 6-0] which wasn’t the outcome [most] wanted, but in the other two we scored 12 tries … six tries a game, which is not too bad.
"We can point to that. We can get bogged down in the second Test, or think about the other two. Our intent was no different in all three Tests. But the opposition has a bit to do with how the game is played.
"In the Tahs' campaign, we saw moments, or periods of the game, where they were bogged down, their opponents kept them bogged down and then they were able to break through across 80 minutes, good enough to finish on top and score some tries."
McKenzie is still keeping one eye on next year’s World Cup as form, illness, injury and overseas opportunities rule out player availability.
Injury has once again tested the Wallabies for Saturday’s game as Rebels prop Laurie Weeks and Brumbies winger Joe Tomane were ruled out on Sunday.
Coming in for Weeks, who joined the squad only last Wednesday but re-aggravated a hamstring issue at training last Friday, is Waratahs tight-head Paddy Ryan.
In for Tomane, who has a minor hamstring strain, is Rebels winger Tom English.
"By the end of the year we will have a really good idea about who is who in the zoo," McKenzie said. "That will give us a better platform to pick the World Cup side in July-August next year.”