25 Jul 2017

Wallabies fully focussed on beating All Blacks

7:30 am on 25 July 2017

With their participation in Super Rugby now over, the Australian rugby coach Michael Cheika has all his players fully focussed on the Rugby Championship which starts next month with back-to-back games against the All Blacks.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika after the Bledisloe Cup defeat by the All  Blacks at Eden Park.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika after the Bledisloe Cup defeat by the All Blacks at Eden Park. Photo: Photosport

While three New Zealand sides battle in the Super semi-finals this week, Cheika has gathered a bumper 38-man squad for a punishing training camp in the New South Wales port city of Newcastle ahead of their Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks in Sydney on August 19th.

The squad will be further reinforced by another eight or so Brumbies later this week in the wake of their 35-16 loss to the champion Hurricanes in Canberra on Friday.

The boot camp comes as a sense of crisis engulfs Australian rugby after the nation's five teams failed to beat a single New Zealand opponent in 26 matches this season.

That has stoked fears the Wallabies could face a torrid time in the three-test Bledisloe Cup series against the world champions having already suffered a surprise loss to Scotland and a huge scare against Italy in the June internationals.

The basic level of fitness of Australia's players came under the microscope during the Super Rugby season, with the teams prone to fading badly late on during games against New Zealand opposition.

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore complained after the June series that the provincial sides had failed to prepare players for the rigours of test rugby.

Cheika said the boot camp would also aim to make Wallabies hopefuls more mentally fit for the All Blacks challenge.

"The first couple of weeks of our preparation has to be able to get us to the physical and mental level where we believe we can go out there and win the game," he said.

"I know the way I like to coach and the game we need to play, we need to be at the best fitness level we can be.

"We're not going to acquire that all in a couple of weeks but at the end of the day ... we need to get them to turn the key inside of their minds to get them to the next level.

"Because the games we play against New Zealand will probably the most intense the guys have played in their careers."

The Wallabies were joined by legends George Gregan and Brad Thorn at training yesterday.

Gregan was on hand to help players with their leadreship and mental skills, while Thorn, who won the 2011 World Cup with the All Blacks, was there in an educational role to take back to help his Queensland Reds side.

Australia Open the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks in Sydney on August 19th and then meet in Dunedin a week later.

While versatile back Kurtley Beale is on track to recover from a hamstring injury Karmichael Hunt, who played at inside centre during the June matches, has been ruled out of the All Blacks matches after ankle surgery and could miss up to a month of the Rugby Championship, Cheika confirmed.

-Reuters and RNZ