Wallabies’ Head Coach, Dave Rennie, has named a strong Match Day 23 for today’s opening Bledisloe Cup match, with Rebels’ winger, Andrew Kellaway, set to make his first Test start in the Australian green and gold.
Kellaway is one of five Melbourne Rebels named for the Trans-Tasman clash, with Matt Philip, Jordan Uelese, Matt To’omua and Reece Hodge, selected to provide valuable late game firepower.
The Wallabies are scheduled to play consecutive Tests at Eden Park, before facing the All Blacks for the third and final Bledisloe match at Optus Stadium in Perth on August 28.
Known as the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby, Eden Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the Wallabies, with the All Blacks claiming 19 consecutive victories at the venue, a streak which stretches back to 1989.
Although daunting, Reece Hodge, and Matt To’omua, believe the Wallabies’ time is now and won’t shy away from the opportunity to make history.
“It’s always a great atmosphere and there’s always a lot of black in the crowd, but apart from that it’s just a rugby field like every other one in international rugby,” said Hodge.
“We enjoy it, as it’s one of the tougher challenges in the world, but as one of the guys mentioned earlier, once we have that opportunity to break the hoodoo, it’ll be sweet,” said To’omua.
Unlike Wallabies’ Bledisloe campaigns of the past, an injection of youth in Dave Rennie’s side might prove to be the missing ingredient needed to go one step further this time around.
Of the 23 players selected for the first test against the Kiwis, 16 have played in 14 or fewer tests for Australia - a team dynamic Matt To’omua believes could be the tonic for an upset victory.
“We’ve got the ignorance of youth, which is quite beneficial to us, and working on our own belief is what you’ve got to do, you can’t read too much into the storyline or the narrative, as athletes you’ve got to just focus on your job,” he said.
Fresh off a stirring series win against the French National side, the Wallabies will look to carry that positive momentum into this weekend’s challenge.
Reece Hodge believes the impact last month’s thrilling success has made on his side’s self-belief will be imperative to creating a winning culture in Australian rugby.
“It’s important to get those close wins, in the past we’ve been on the losing side of a lot of those close games, it’s important to build that winning culture and we’ve talked a lot about how important it is to make it a habit,” said Hodge
“We’re hoping that it’ll springboard us into the next part of the international season.”