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Lote-Gate, Auckland Hoodoo Doesn't Faze Wallabies

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Lote-Gate, Auckland Hoodoo Doesn't Faze Wallabies

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Sydney, July 13 NZPA - As talk of Lote Tuqiri and Auckland hoodoos swirl around the Wallabies, they insist neither will be an excuse for a test rugby loss to the All Blacks on Saturday.

A battle-hardened Wallabies outfit reassembled at their beachside Coogee base here today, ahead of Saturday's Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup opener at Eden Park where they have not won in 10 tests since 1986.

Tuqiri's shadow has loomed overhead since his contract was torn up last week by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), for an undisclosed disciplinary breach.

Reports today suggested captain Stirling Mortlock was fuming over a press release from the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA), which linked him to comments that players felt "fearful and intimidated of the ARU".

Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess today offered a "no comment", while hooker Stephen Moore swatted aside thoughts that Tuqiri was a distraction.

"Not really. That's an issue between Lote and the ARU and RUPA as well," Moore said.

"As far as the players go, we've got no real involvement in it and I don't have much interest in it. My focus is solely on the game."

Speculation over Tuqiri has been the solitary annoyance in an otherwise smooth buildup for the Wallabies.

Coach Robbie Deans will announce a stable lineup tomorrow with few changes from the 22-6 win over France last month when they kept the tourists tryless.

All except flanker Rocky Elsom are fit for selection, with fellow loose forward Wycliff Palu tipped to return at No 8.

Deans returned from a weekend in Christchurch to visit his ill father to put the Wallabies through their paces at Leichhardt Oval today, before they jet to Auckland on Wednesday.

While the Wallabies' preparation and June test form was superior to the All Blacks, Saturday's venue and the return from injury of New Zealand captain Richie McCaw are the main talking points across the Tasman.

"It's a great opportunity for us (but) with Richie coming back, he's obviously the barometer of their side and he's going to lift them a lot," Moore said.

"They would have worked hard in the last few weeks and Eden Park's their spiritual home; they always play well there and they've got a great record there.

"It's more a proud record for them more than an obstacle for us. We've got a new chance to win there this weekend and that's all we're really focused on.

"It's certainly an intimidating ground to play at. It's similar to Loftus Versfeld or Ellis Park; the home crowd really get behind the team and they always play well there. We're going to have to play really well to win."

Last year the Wallabies arrived in Auckland with high hopes, after beating the All Blacks in Sydney, and copped a 10-39 hiding.

Moore said the younger Wallabies were better for that learning curve and knew what to expect in Auckland. The venue would not be a major talking point in camp this week, he said.

"Last year we had a new coaching set up and we're a long, long way down the track than we were this time last year. With that 12 months of having Robbie on board, it's brought a lot out of the players and you'll see a much better performance on Saturday.

"The June tests were a good chance to work on our combinations and get some momentum. We've got that now and we'll go over there with some good confidence in the work we've done."


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