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Wallabies' new intensity, physicality will not be enough against All Blacks, says Stirling Mortlock

Happy camper: Kurtley Beale meets fans at the Wallabies’ Bathurst camp last week.

Happy camper: Kurtley Beale meets fans at the Wallabies’ Bathurst camp last week. Photo: Getty Images

Super Rugby and Test successes this year have imbued the Wallabies with intensity, self-confidence and trust in their physical presence. But they will need all of this – plus more – to beat the All Blacks on Saturday, says former captain Stirling Mortlock.

"That’s the reality,” Mortlock, the Wallabies 2007 World Cup captain, said on Sunday.

"[The All Blacks] are that good – that even when you have that physicality and that presence, when you rip in at the breakdown and do have that momentum for large periods of time of the game, they usually find  a way to still be in the game, if not leading."

No easy task: Stirling Mortlock says the Wallabies need to play to their best even to have a hope of beating the All Blacks.

No easy task: Stirling Mortlock says the Wallabies need to play to their best even to have a hope of beating the All Blacks. Photo: Mal Fairclough

As were so many, the 80-Test veteran was impressed by the Brumbies and Waratahs in their Super Rugby semi-final square off, and especially with how the Waratahs came out victors and then went on to beat the Crusaders in Sydney to win the title.

"Both of those teams have made inroads in their physicality in their set-piece, which historically has been a bit of a concern for the Australian team," Mortlock said.

"But I think [the Waratahs’] physicality and confidence and their defensive pattern was the best out of an Australian provincial team I have seen for quite some time. It was the first time ... in a long time I have seen an Australian team matching it physically, dominating physically, the opposition."

Mortlock hopes that dominance will transfer into the Wallabies game.

But he believes that against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, where the Waratahs won their Super Rugby crown, this alone will not be enough.

Of the 16 Tests he played against the All Blacks, Mortlock – who was also in the Wallabies’ last Bledisloe Cup-winning team, in 2002 – was in the losing side 12 times.

But of the four games that ended in wins against the All Blacks, three were at Homebush – including a 2003 Test in which he scored an intercept try that helped the Wallabies beat the All Blacks 22-10 in the World Cup semi-final.

Based on the Wallabies’ progress since Ewen McKenzie became coach a year ago, including a 3-0 Test series win over France in June, Mortlock believes the Wallabies can beat the All Blacks for the first time since August 2011, and for the first time in Sydney since July 2008.

Mortlock, for all his respect for the All Blacks, even believes the Wallabies could win the Bledisloe Cup.

The 37-year-old has not forgotten his own satisfaction in lifting the Bledisloe Cup in 2002.

"I didn’t think I wouldn’t get a chance to grab hold of it again," he said. "But I'm pretty damn excited that this year is hopefully the year we get it back."

Mortlock says the impact of a packed crowd at ANZ Stadium containing mostly Wallabies supporters should not be underestimated – as he says the Super Rugby final showed.

"Watching the Crusaders lineout struggle to get their calls in is a great indicator the crowd is engrossed in the game, contributing to the cauldron [atmosphere]," he said. "When you are playing before a home crowd when they are that into the game, it's a massive boost. That is what it should be. We are talking Test rugby … Bledisloe Cup. It doesn't get much bigger than that."

However, he reminds himself that no matter how well placed the Wallabies might be in the game, the All Blacks will remain a threat until the full-time whistle blows.

"The All Blacks are going to take all of the momentum, all of the physicality, you can provide," Mortlock said. "Even if you are dominating them, they are still going to take that and give it back. Even then it's still going to be a very tight arm wrestle."

22 comments so far

  • We'll it doesn't get any bigger down under than this for us rugby fanatics. I think that Sterling is right. It's going to take a massive effort for you Aussies to beat this ABs team. I think combinations will be key as both teams will be a little rusty. However the ABs have had a key hit out against against two provincial teams in one match. I hope the referee is up to the task as I don't want to be reading all the dross that usually accompanies a Wallaby loss to the ABs in the days after and vice versa of course!

    Date and time
    August 11, 2014, 2:43AM
    • Of course the ABs are the benchmark. Their long term success rate and their recent domination both clealry place them as dereving favorites. They have built the benchmark game and culture not just for rugby but for all sports. So we acknowledge that. Javing said that I am optimistic, based on the improvement at Super rugby level, that we have a better group of players and more depth at each position. The call up of Nathan Charles is a good example of that depth. Carn the Wallabies.

      a don
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 7:53AM
      • Potieger ? Provided 95% of physical bit for the Tahs . Higgenbotham is the only one we have who comes near him , and should be in the side . The blokes from the Force are the right stuff and play like ABs , but not considered good enough . We prefer Flash to Substance .

        Up in Palmerland ?
        Date and time
        August 11, 2014, 8:15AM
        • If you want substance over flash, mentioning Scott Higginbotham diminishes your credibility. Palu is far more physical than him and if you look at the dominant tackles that shifted momentum for the Tahs throughout the year.... a lot were Palu. I am afraid that I did not see many from Higginbotham, he has been in poor form and plays far too loose, we cannot afford to have him and Hooper in the team as the hard graft needs to get done as well.

          Date and time
          August 11, 2014, 10:22AM
      • Wow Sterling talk about stating the obvious.....EVERYTHING you say is mandatory in test rugby. Once you can match the AB's in these area's its talent that makes the difference.

        Date and time
        August 11, 2014, 8:32AM
        • I do think Wallabies could win however will have to bring it to the ABs. Looking the the Waratahs well deserved win they make up a huge portion on the Wallabies team which might see the intensity carried through. However the All Blacks has pretty much and entirely different backline with the exception of Dagg who I feel should be replaced by the better Ben Smith. The Super XV can only be used as inspiration and not a guide to beating the All Blacks.

          Date and time
          August 11, 2014, 10:16AM
          • Wallabies need to win to consolidate rugby's popularity leading up to the NRC. And to make the October Suncorp test in Brisbane the Bledisloe decider.
            New Zealand need to lose to justify personal changes in the coaching box and on the field.

            Wallabies won't get a better chance to roll the All Blacks between now and the Semi Finals of 2015 world cup, that is if the ABs can get past France in a quarter final at Millennium Stadium.

            Date and time
            August 11, 2014, 10:29AM
            • Ahhh, it's ever so, so ... all the mighty AB needs do is just turn-up, run around for 80 mins and then lock-up THAT 'cup' back to where it rightly belongs... forever theirs. How tidy ?
              Let alone, they also receive the record for the longest winning streak in the history of the known universe... plus a set of steak-knives. Tasty !

              Ohhh... it's so good to be a Wallaby supporter, one that enduringly supports a team that's generous enough, to a fault, to provide such weak, second-rate opposition to the mighty AB, year in and year out. Thus helping and abiding them to continue to be, as we know, the mighty all conquering AB.

              Nahhh... enough of being generous... bottoms to that !

              Yep, enough of being generous... it's time to rip into that smug, annoying little bird. It's time to ruffle the feathers. It's time to invoke the spirit of Aunty Jack... you can't get more Aussie than that.
              It's time... it worked for Gough as a slogan and look how long he laboured in the wilderness.

              C'arn da Wallaby... it's about time... it's our time !

              inner west sydney
              Date and time
              August 11, 2014, 11:55AM
              • I agree the Wallabies are inspired to win with their recent Super Rugby fortune and good form. However, the ABs don't just sit on their heels and 'turn up for 80'. They are innovators and they are masters of the big occasion. Sure they've slipped at WC's, but 1 bad game in any team sport can be fatal to your ambitions. The hardened ABs of 2014 have their mind focused on one job. Global domination of Rugby. And it doesn't matter if the team is wearing Gold, White, Green or Red, when they get clean ball and dominate up front, its going to be hard to beat them. I think the Wallabies will definitely take the first game. But we all know that the ABs are slow starters, and once ruffled they can come out firing.

                Date and time
                August 11, 2014, 12:59PM
              • @ Chook... Good luck, mate. You "could need it" lol. What we have to remember, is that the AB's have never been beaten, in the two years that the Rugby Championship, has been in force. Secondly,at this stage, the AB's are going for a new world record, at this level, of consecutive wins. At present they have amassed, 17, & at the same time the Wallabies have a run of 7 consecutive wins. Food for thought?, or to eat? Cheers.
                @ Gonzo.. In regards to World Cups, it must be remembered that South Africa, are the most successful country, along with being the only team to win cups, home & away. New Zealand at home & Australia away.

                Date and time
                August 11, 2014, 3:49PM

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