After 15 years of losing the Bledisloe Cup to the All Blacks, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper says there’s nothing wrong with focusing on winning the trophy.
Three of the Wallabies matchday 23 – Ned Hanigan, Sean McMahon and Curtis Rona – have never played against the All Blacks and close to half the team was not a part of last year’s Sydney debacle.
Though Hooper maintained their focus was incredibly narrow heading into Saturday's Test in Sydney, when asked if he let his thoughts wander to the idea of winning the trophy, he was honest.
“This group's come together this year to do something and what's wrong with a dream? What's wrong with a goal that everyone here wants to achieve?," he told the Australian Rugby Union's official website.
“There's nothing wrong with it and that's what we should be aspiring to and wanting so everyone in our change room has that mentality.”
McMahon will start at number eight for the Wallabies for the first time since last year’s Test against France, after missing the June Series with injury.
Despite having 15 Tests to his name, McMahon has never been picked in a Bledisloe Cup clash and coming off four weeks of tuning up, Hooper expects plenty from the 23-year-old.
“He's a damaging ball carrier, defender and he's really worked on his game over the breakdown and in the breakdown,” he said.
“I’ve been really impressed with how strong he is over the ball.
“He goes absolutely hell for leather from the kick-off.
“So, if he can give that for 60 minutes he's going to make some real inroads into a quality New Zealand team.”
Once McMahon and co come off in Sydney, the support of an experienced bench will be a nice luxury for the Wallabies, who have an average of 43 caps across the board on the pine this weekend.
Though the All Blacks didn’t exactly pile on the points in that final 20 minutes of last year’s three encounters, their returns of three tries in the last quarter were game-sealing, with the Wallabies able to score just one try after 60 minutes, in the 78th minute in Sydney.
“They are really good at that 60-minute mark of that continued pressure,” said Hooper.
“They know their roles really well, and that's their bench included.
“Our bench hasn't seen the enthusiasm in the last couple of games that we probably would've liked to have seen so picked a really strong bench, guys like Lopeti (Timani), (Sekope) Kepu in the front row and Tevita (Kuridrani) to come on.
“Some guys to really up the tempo, up the enthusiasm and some really nice skill set and experience on the bench to close out a game.”