Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes has fired the first psychological
shot to trigger another week of inevitable mind games before Sunday
night’s Rugby World Cup semi-final showstopper against the All Blacks in
Not even more injury concerns for both camps could remove the spectre of Australia’s well-documented, 25-year, Eden Park hoodoo.
the straight-shooting Barnes needed just nine words to remind edgy New
Zealanders that the All Blacks had demons of their own to bury before
they could start thinking about lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for the first
time in 24 years.
“They’re worried about us come World Cup time too,” Barnes said.
have never lost to New Zealand at the quadrennial tournament and
famously sent the All Blacks packing with semi-final muggings in 1991
“There’s Aussie hoodoos left, right and centre here and 80 minutes at Eden Park come next Sunday,” Barnes said.
long-time sparring partners Robbie Deans and Graham Henry in the two
coaches’ boxes only adds to the spice of the occasion.
be desperate for their teams to advance after being in the All Blacks’
corner for New Zealand’s premature exits from the past two tournaments.
presided over the All Blacks’ worst campaign ever in 2007 while
countryman Deans was assistant to John Mitchell when Stirling Mortlock’s
long-range intercept try inspired Australia to their semi-final upset
Now Deans is plotting New Zealand’s demise and insists
the Wallabies’ quarter-of-a-century drought at the All Blacks’ Auckland
fortress counts for nothing.
“Well, it’s the first occasion we’ve played them in a semi-final of a World Cup at Eden Park, so there’s no history,” he said.
hugely excited. It’s fantastic. We know each other well as teams.
There’s a huge amount of history; there’s no more history than between
the Wallabies and the All Blacks – and there’s a lot of history at World
Cup time as well.”
In what should please the Australians, South
African referee Craig Joubert, rewarded for his work in charge of the
free-flowing Wales-Ireland quarter-final, has been appointed to control
Henry, a former school headmaster, knows only
too well that such history favours Australia, despite top-ranked New
Zealand having been perennial favourites since winning the inaugural
Rugby World Cup in 1987.
The All Blacks’ inability since is
perhaps why Henry won’t be stressing his 2011 hopefuls out about the
magnitude of Sunday’s Tri Nations final encore.
“It’s important that it’s done systematically and gradually and we build again for Sunday’s game,” he said.
suspects the semi-final will be a different style of contest than when
the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks 25-20 in their most recent meeting
in Brisbane in August.
“Australia are a very good rugby side. They have some very talented players, they play real well,” he said.
think the nature of rugby changes a wee bit in finals football when the
result is you can ‘die’ if you lose and that probably makes both sides a
wee bit more conservative in the game they play.
“So they don’t chance their arm as much as they normally would do.
the South African situation at the weekend, where they turned the ball
over under their sticks and Australia scored a try there – you just try
to avoid those situations which can result in winning or losing.
“So I think it will be a pretty careful approach on Sunday.”