Australia want to end Tri Nations title drought
Australia head into their decider with New Zealand today motivated by the chance to end a 10-year Tri Nations drought.
Since 2001, when Toutai Kefu scored in the last minute in Sydney to seal victory over the All Blacks and a second consecutive Tri Nations series win, Australia have suffered through a decade as the competition's third-best side.
A day out from their opportunity to turn the tide on home turf at Suncorp Stadium, the freshly promoted captain, James Horwill, made clear how determined his side are to end their streak as also-rans.
"The result is what we're looking for and that is to win the Tri Nations. We haven't won it for a while, and as a team I think it'd be fantastic for us to get our hands on that trophy," Horwill said yesterday.
"We want as much silverware as possible in the trophy cabinet.
"That's what we're playing for tomorrow night - the winner takes the spoils, so that's all we're focused on.
"It's probably the biggest tournament in the world, bar what's happening in a World Cup year, so it's a big tournament for us.
"We haven't had our hands on that trophy for 10 years, and that's a long drought not to have your hands on a trophy that's being competed for by three teams."
Both Horwill and the openside flanker, David Pocock, identified matching physicality at the breakdown and providing clean ball as key to achieving the upset victory. Blown out of the contest by an early onslaught from the All Blacks in their most recent Bledisloe tussle at Eden Park, the Wallabies have primed themselves to match muscle and commitment through the traditional softening-up period.
"In the whole tournament, we've seen how important those first 20 minutes are and how physical they've been, so that's going to be the key for us," Pocock said.
The Australians who take to the field this weekend will be playing for their World Cup spots and not just the Tri Nations trophy, according to the tight-head Ben Alexander.
"The moment that you think your spot is assured is the moment you'll start slipping backwards, and you'll get replaced," he said.
"That was the depth that [coach] Robbie [Deans] looked to build over the last few years. That initially probably wasn't there, five or so years ago. And it's not just the front row, it's across the whole paddock.
"If you don't perform on Saturday, you'll be replaced quick-sticks, because we have the depth and we have the players to replace you."
Graham Henry, New Zealand's coach, is refusing to view the encounter as a pre-cursor to what might happen in the World Cup.
"Frankly, if you look at history, it means nothing," he said.
"We played France in France before the last World Cup, won by 40-odd points, gave them a hiding, and got beaten in the quarter-final.
"It's got some significance, but I don't think it's great.
"We'd like to win, then you have a bit more peace on Sunday. That's what this is all about.
"You go into these contests, play good footy and hopefully do the business. At the end of the day does it tilt the balance in someone's favour to win the Rugby World Cup? I don't think so."
Published: August 27, 2011 04:00 AM