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Struggling Wallabies can ‘shock’ All Blacks says Eddie Jones

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After losing their opening Rugby Championship games to the Springboks and Los Pumas, Eddie Jones believes his struggling side can cause an upset against the All Blacks.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones poses during a team photo ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against the All Blacks
Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones poses during a team photo ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against the All Blacks. Photo: Martin Keep/AFP

Eddie Jones has tipped the struggling Wallabies to “shock” fans and upset the All Blacks on Saturday, but co-skipper James Slipper admits the odds are stacked against them.

New Zealand, ranked the world’s number three side, head into the game in front of an expected 80,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after impressive victories over world champions South Africa and Argentina.

Two trophies are on the line, with a win ensuring Ian Foster’s men retain the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship title and also the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup.

Australia haven’t got their hands on the Bledisloe silverware since 2002 — when Jones was last in charge — and few expect that to change.

The Wallabies would need not only victory in Melbourne but also at Dunedin next month to claim the spoils.

And they would need a significant change in form. Australia are still chasing their first victory of the 2023 Rugby Championship, after defeats against the Springboks and Pumas.

Jones has made seven changes after being embarrassed at home 34-31 by Argentina and is gambling on a young and relatively inexperienced starting side to handle the pressure at a stadium neither team has experienced before.

Notably, rookie Carter Gordon has been thrown in at the deep end as playmaker alongside scrum-half Tate McDermott with Quade Cooper and Nic White on the bench.

With a few months to go before the September-October World Cup in France, Jones acknowledged his team had been widely written off, but insisted they were a work in progress.

“I’m still getting to know the players and the players are still getting to know me. We needed to find out where the best balance of the team is but just watching the team train I liked the look of it,” he said.

“There’s not too many people outside our group that thinks we can win the game but there’s 85,000 people that might be in for a shock.”

Wallabies co-skipper Slipper sounded slightly less confident on an unusual Friday where neither team was able to get a feel for the cavernous MCG on the traditional captain’s run.

A blockbuster Australian Rules match at the venue between Collingwood and Carlton meant it was off-limits.

Slipper admitted “the odds don’t really stack up when you’ve lost 20 (Bledisloe Cups) in a row”.

He added: “We know what’s in front of us, we’re going to have to put in one hell of a shift to get a result.”

‘Adapt fast’

Ardie Savea, New Zealand’s skipper in place of the injured Sam Cane, on Friday admitted they were wary of the new-look Wallabies.

“We have that in the back of our mind, we know they are going to come out firing and we know they can throw something at us that we haven’t seen before,” he said.

“The great challenge for us is having to adapt fast to the game and that’s something that we’ve talked about.”

Savea said his team had room for improvement despite commanding performances in the first two rounds.

“We started well in both Tests (this season) and kind of let teams back in, so we really want to play the game right for the whole 80 minutes,” he said.

“It’s always crucial for any team to be consistent and for this All Blacks team that’s what we want to do.”

Cane is the only change to the side that emphatically beat South Africa 35-20 two weeks ago, with Dalton Papalii coming into the starting XV.

“The Bledisloe means so much not only to the All Blacks, but the whole of New Zealand, so a lot is on the line,” Savea said.

“We know that, we feel that, we harness that. We have used that as fuel and energy this week and hopefully on Saturday.”

AFP

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