Wallabies ramp up the pressure
AUCKLAND, 13 Oct. - The Wallabies have taken every chance this week to ensure the All Blacks are feeling maximum pressure ahead of their semi-final at Eden Park on Sunday.
Flanker Rocky Elsom jumped at the opportunity to outline exactly what a demanding Kiwi public expected of their team, just in case any All Blacks happened to be listening.
“They’re the No.1 ranked team in the world and they’re in a country where they expect them to win the World Cup," he said. "Regardless of what happens, the public expect that.
"I can’t speak for them, but I know you get a feeling around town that they won’t tolerate anything less."
Elsom laughed off the supposed 'curse' of Eden Park, where Australia have not won since 1986, saying New Zealand had more to fear from the ground than they did.
“The situation is not only are they expected to win this match, but then the next one, as well. There is a hell of a lot of expectation. Just what that does to them, I’m not sure, but you definitely know it’s there."
Fly half Quade Cooper was next to pitch into the pressure theme.
"They’re supposed to have won the World Cup for the past three tournaments and this is no different," he said.
The players were not alone in their assessment of the strain of expectation on the All Blacks.
Australia coaching coordinator David Nucifora lived in New Zealand while coaching the Auckland Blues from 2005 to 2008 and has a personal understanding of just how much rugby matters in this part of the world.
"It means a heck of a lot to New Zealanders, the game of rugby, so I think that just puts a lot of pressure on their team," he said. "The players know and the players understand the expectation that sits on their shoulders to win a World Cup.
"You only have to walk the streets, it's everywhere around you at the moment. The pressure is mounting, the expectation is there, it's been a long time and people want to win it."
Nucifora was in New Zealand when the All Blacks lost their quarter-final against France at Rugby World Cup 2007.
When asked to describe the local reaction to the loss, he could only manage only a simple description.
"It was just a glum place to be."
With the pressure to win clearly falling more heavily on the shoulders of the All Blacks, the underdog Wallabies will be hoping to take advantage and bring a bit more gloom to the streets of New Zealand on Sunday night.
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