Australia captain James Horwill will tell his team to trust their instincts and “have a dig” when they face world champions New Zealand in their opening match of the Rugby Championship this weekend.
Horwill and the Wallabies are desperate to put the disappointment of last month’s British and Irish Lions series defeat behind them and get new coach Ewen McKenzie off to a winning start at the Olympic Stadium today. McKenzie has named five uncapped players in his matchday squad and Horwill, who played under the former Test prop for four years at the Queensland Reds, said his final words of advice would be for the rookies to back themselves.
“I’ll tell the new guys it’s just another game of football, as big as it is,” the lock told reporters yesterday.
“You got yourself here because you’re good footballers so you’ve got to go out there and back yourself,” Horwill said. “Don’t think twice and if you think something’s on, have a dig because I’ll never criticize you for having a go and having a crack, and neither will Ewen.”
“We’ve got to make sure that whatever we do, we don’t do it half-hearted, and go out full bore and make sure we enjoy it,” he added.
Horwill has played New Zealand 10 times and ended up a winner only twice, the first time in previous coach Robbie Deans’s first match in charge in 2008.
McKenzie has said he will encourage his side to play “the Australian way” with ball in hand and has picked a potent if inexperienced back three of Israel Folau, James O’Connor and Jesse Mogg.
“We need to make sure as a forward pack that we get as much ball to our backs as possible, because we’ve got a very dangerous backline that can really do damage when they get clean ball,” Horwill said.
“[Israel]’s a guy you want to get the ball because he makes things happen,” he said. “He’s got free rein to make sure he gets the ball as much as he wants.”
Winger Folau is to play his fourth Test today after exploding onto the international scene in the Lions series, highlighted by his two-try debut in the opener.
Scrumhalf Will Genia said he had been highly impressed in training by fullback Jesse Mogg, who made his debut as a replacement winger in the third Lions Test.
“We didn’t get to see much of his ability to run the ball and attack, and just to see him in training, he’s incredibly quick,” Genia said.
“He’s got great pace and he just adds a different dimension to our attack, especially with a left boot as well. So if we can create space and momentum, those guys can definitely find space and plenty of opportunities for the team,” he added.
Today’s match is the first of three against the All Blacks over the next few months, with another Rugby Championship match in Wellington next week and a third Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin in October.
New Zealand have held the trophy since 2003.