Skipper Stirling Mortlock has rated his new-look Wallabies a more disciplined unit than the heavily-experienced one which fell in 2007’s final Tri-Nations hurdle.
For the second time in two seasons, Australia must beat the All Blacks in the last Test of the Tri-Nations to win the tournament on Saturday night.
Mortlock was left to lament the Wallabies’ indiscipline in the 26-12 defeat to New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park last August.
They played the better rugby of the first half but went into the break 12-9 down and then continued to give away penalties in the second half as Dan Carter slotted seven three-pointers for the match.
Although Australia no longer boast the experience and cool heads of veterans George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Chris Latham, Mortlock believes his side has learned their lessons and have improved their team discipline and belief under Robbie Deans.
“It’s something that each week you talk about and certainly it’s something we have this week,” he said today.
“It’s not only discipline in being penalised but discipline to have that underlying belief in what we’re doing and playing the game as we see fit.”
International rookies Peter Hynes, Ryan Cross, James Horwill and Benn Robinson have stamped their marks on the Wallabies, who have already once this year bounced back from a massive loss and will have to do it again following the 53-8 defeat to South Africa.
The All Blacks have also lost their share of seasoned campaigners, missing six from last year’s Tri-Nations champions.
Mortlock, moving to inside centre following the loss of Berrick Barnes (shoulder), felt there was little similarities in the teams from that decider.
“We’ve got a lot of different traits and there’s a lot of younger guys who have really come on in leaps and bounds this season and likewise the rest of the guys who have been through a few heartaches and pain have learned from that,” he said.
“Underlying what we’re about is bringing something for your mates bringing something to the group and if that is your mindset there should be a positive outcome.”
Much will depend on Mortlock’s ability to adapt to No.12 and provide an extra kicking option to Matt Giteau.
But with three words, Mortlock assured he’d handle the challenge if the unthinkable occurred and playmaker Giteau was sidelined and he had to move to five-eighth.
“We’ll be right,” he said
“When I (played Australian Schoolboys) I’d only played No.10, and also played my first first year of colts at 10. It’s just been a while.”