Wallabies to gauge Cup hopes: Macqueen - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies to gauge Cup hopes: Macqueen

By Jim Morton 28/07/2010 04:34:47 PM Comments (0)

Master coach Rod Macqueen has branded Saturday night's Test the Wallabies' most significant match leading into next year's World Cup as they'll measure themselves against an All Blacks outfit on the "verge of greatness".

Macqueen, who guided Australia to their 1999 World Cup triumph, said Robbie Deans' team would gain a true gauge of their 2011 title credentials when they attempt to end a seven-Test trans-Tasman losing streak at Etihad Stadium.

The Melbourne Rebels' foundation coach ironically ended the All Blacks' last great Bledisloe Cup streak in 1998 when he and captain John Eales combined for a 3-0 series whitewash of New Zealand.

And in a good omen for Deans' team, the pivotal breakthrough came in Melbourne when Matt Burke starred in a 24-16 victory at the MCG.

"Australia have a (season) and a half coming into the next World Cup and this is going to be a litmus test for them," Macqueen said on Wednesday.

"It is one of the more significant games in the last few years and particularly for Australia, I think this will be the most significant game for them.

"So close to the World Cup it's a great opportunity for them because they're not guessing, they'll know after this next game where they stand and what they have to do."

Macqueen rated the current All Blacks outfit, who are riding an 11-Test winning roll, as the best NZ side in 13 years, dating back to hooker Sean Fitzpatrick's last season in charge.

Fitzpatrick played 92 Tests and his record of 74 victories as an All Black has just been eclipsed by current skipper Richie McCaw, who notched his 75th triumph for New Zealand against South Africa two weeks ago.

Since their 2007 World Cup meltdown, McCaw's team have won 28 of their 34 Tests.

"I suspect this is probably a (NZ) side at the moment which is on the verge of greatness and looking back on the past decade getting back to the Fitzpatrick-type days," Macqueen said.

Macqueen turned the Wallabies around from being a laughing stock at the end of 1997 under Greg Smith into the most dominant team in the world when they held all trophies on offer when he stood down after leading them to a first-ever success over the British Lions in 2001.

A hallmark of his teams was the ability to come from behind to steal Tests at the death, highlighted by Eales' last-ditch penalty goal in Wellington in 2000.

Macqueen said there were no miracle cures for the current side, who have led the All Blacks at halftime in five of their last six matches before falling away in the second half.

"That comes with confidence," he said.

Macqueen called for the Wallabies to play to their strengths in the backline but felt Matt Giteau, picked at flyhalf for the suspended Quade Cooper, should have been retained at inside centre where he was becoming more like Tim Horan each game.

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