Wallabies not looking back ahead of All Blacks face-off
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Previous encounters between New Zealand and Australia have been so tight that no one dares make predictions for Sunday’s semi-final, including Wallabies skipper James Horwill who said on Saturday that history would have no bearing on the encounter.
REUTERS - Recent matches between New Zealand and Australia, and the All Blacks’ history of choking at the rugby World Cup, will have no bearing on Sunday’s semi-final at Eden Park, Wallabies skipper James Horwill said on Saturday.
The encounter between hosts New Zealand, the world’s top-ranked team, and Tri-Nations champions Australia is considered to be so close that pundits have been reaching for precedent to help them in their predictions.
The Wallabies have some history on their side having beaten the All Blacks in the 1991 and 2003 World Cup semi-finals and they also won the last encounter between the trans-Tasman rivals in Brisbane in the Tri-Nations decider earlier this year.
Against that is the fact they have not won at Eden Park for a quarter of a century, including a humbling defeat to the All Blacks in the Tri Nations in August and the shock loss to Ireland in the pool phase of the World Cup.
Ten of the Australian team were not even born when the Wallabies last won at the home of New Zealand, however, and Horwill was not about to get too excited about what had happened in the past.
“History is history,” he told reporters at the team hotel on Saturday. “This is a World Cup semi-final tomorrow night and that’s all we’re worried about and history means nothing.
“The mood has been good this week,” he added.
“The boys are relaxed and we are looking forward to it. We understand the magnitude of the game at hand, but everybody is pretty relaxed and pretty calm I think that is a good sign. You do not want to be walking around too stressed and uptight about what’s coming.”
The loss of Kurtley Beale to injury was “disappointing for Kurtley himself”, Horwill said, but the team had been preparing all week without the fullback and were well prepared to cope.
Another concern for Australia has been the form of New Zealand-born flyhalf Quade Cooper but Horwill said he was convinced his Queensland Reds team mate would be at his brilliant best on Sunday night.
“I think he will have the best game he’s ever had tomorrow,” he said. “He has just been training well and he is looking forward to it and controlling the boys well.
“It’s not about one bloke, it is about the group going out there and getting the job done and I know Quade’s keen to get the job done.”
David Pocock, who has been a pivotal player for Australia at blindside flanker, brushed off media speculation about how he would be refereed and the much-anticipated clash with his opposite number, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
“I don’t read it, I don’t watch too much telly,” he said. “I guess I’m oblivious to most of it. It’s a good bunch of guys and it’s a lot of fun to be in this environment.
“You can’t let it become a distraction and get caught up in the one-to-one battle, it’s a team game.”
So did he draw inspiration from the chance to prove he is the best number seven in the world?
“All the inspiration you need is the fact that if we win, we’re in the World Cup final,” said Pocock.
“You grow up playing rugby dreaming about playing in a World Cup final, having that opportunity. You do not need other inspiration and if you do you should probably not be here to be honest”