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Wallabies ignore Steve Hansen's jibes before Bledisloe Cup

Date

Darren Walton

The Wallabies are refusing to engage in All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's pre-Bledisloe psychological warfare, instead keeping their powder dry until hostilities begin on Saturday night.

Hansen fired a succession of shots across the Tasman before departing New Zealand on Thursday, and Kurtley Beale and coach Ewen McKenzie were his two main targets.

Claiming to be "dumbfounded" by Beale's selection at five-eighth ahead of incumbent Bernard Foley, the niggly All Blacks mentor suspected McKenzie promoted the off-contract star from the bench last Test to help keep him in Australian rugby.

“I was a little dumbfounded by it initially,” Hansen said of Beale's selection at No.10. “I thought 'why would he [McKenzie] do that?' and came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn’t trust [Foley] to be able to do what he wants against us, or if you really think about it, the other guy [Beale] is under contract and league are chasing him, so you might start thinking maybe the ARU have told him he’s got to pick him."

The Wallabies, though, are saving any retaliatory strikes until kick-off, saying only that they are backing McKenzie's chief weapon of choice.

ACT Brumbies Nic White and inside-centre Matt Toomua, who will play either side of Beale for the Wallabies, said the classy playmaker had made a smooth transition into the No.10 role after playing inside-centre during the Waratahs' successful Super Rugby campaign.

"I think a lot of people forget that he's played 42 Tests, so he's leaps and bounds ahead of me, so he's dragging me along at the moment," White said.

Toomua noted how Beale played all his schoolboy football at five-eighth, as well as several Tests in the position and the 2008 Super Rugby final as a teenager.

"He's not going to be overawed by this by any means," said Toomua, who will also slot into five-eighth at times during the Rugby Championship opener at ANZ Stadium.

"I've played a bit there myself, too. In saying that, he is calling the shots and I won't be stepping on his toes at all. He is the chief playmaker and we're more than comfortable having him there."

A known on-field sledger, White was not overly surprised by Hansen's apparent attempt to unsettle the Wallabies.

"Yeah, I don't know what his motives are there, but it's obviously interesting and it's a bit of conspiracy I guess," he said. "But why not plant the seed if I was him?"

Hansen also took aim at the Wallabies talking about their need to end the All Blacks' 11-year domination of the Bledisloe Cup, but White said there was merely a level of quiet optimism in their ranks.

"Because a lot of teams have been confident coming up against the All Blacks and been done and done well," White said.

"So it's about that cautious confidence, but confidence goes a long way in team sport and just riding the back of the Waratahs' success and, at the moment, Australian rugby's in a good place.

"So you've got to be confident to play your best footy but, at the same time, know [the Kiwis have] got confidence in spades and they've got that confidence in the tough times in games and in the pressure moments.

"They'll have that confidence to back their game plan and back their players, so I guess we have to match that and try to take it up a notch.

"The Waratahs have done it all season. It's a step up again, but I'd like to think we're in a good place to give it a crack."

McKenzie, meanwhile, finalised his bench on Thursday, omitting back-rower Ben McCalman and deciding on a traditional 5-3 split of forwards and back-line cover.

AAP

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