All Blacks' resolve to be tested against Wallabies

Perth (Australia) (AFP) –


Newly-named All Blacks captain Ardie Savea said Saturday that his side had the mental resolve to push past its "challenging" preparation for the Bledisloe Cup finale.

The all-conquering New Zealand head into Sunday's clash having already clinched the three-test series against Australia after victories in Auckland last month.

But their chances of a clean sweep have been made more difficult with the All Blacks only allowed to venture out of their hotel for training sessions due to a Covid-19 outbreak back home.

"Bit different having to adjust to a soft quarantine life," Savea told reporters ahead of the All Blacks' final training session.

"I like to get fresh air and go for walks, not doing that has been weird.

"These are unique times. It's challenging."

Despite the unusual circumstances, Savea backed his short-handed team, missing a slew of stars, to remain focused and ready for a desperate Wallabies outfit.

"We need to stay mentally prepared," he said.

"We just trust the lads with their preparation in the lead up and to be able to perform."

The match, expected to have a bumper crowd of 60,000, was supposed to be played on August 28 but the All Blacks refused to travel until there was certainty around where the rest of the pandemic-hit Rugby Championship would be played.

It led to bickering between Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby, fuelling anticipation for the first daytime Bledisloe Cup clash in Australia in 25 years.

"They will come out firing and we just have to nullify that," Savea said.

"We are prepared for anything."

- 'Do damage' -

The Wallabies have been out and about during their layoff in Covid-free Perth, including visiting local rugby union clubs.

They also received a pep talk from Australian cricket coach Justin Langer, who attended a training session.

Even though they start heavy underdogs, the Wallabies, strengthed by the inclusions of Samu Kerevi and Izack Rodda, have a quiet confidence with Perth being comfortable terrain for them over the years.

Notably, they thrashed the All Blacks 47-26 at Optus Stadium two years ago.

"That seems like a lifetime ago but it was a really strong performance where we put the foot on the gas," Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.

"Fast forward two years and we want to take that (approach) into the game and do damage."

Even though the Bledisloe Cup has been decided, Sunday's showdown doubles as round two of the Rugby Championship, which also features South Africa and Argentina.

That tournament will be played in Australia's Queensland state.