Mortlock lines up McAlister

Stirling Mortlock reckons the enforced changes to the New Zealand team may play into the Wallabies’ hands, and especially his, as he will be given the task of exposing Luke McAlister’s inexperience in the number thirteen shirt.

Mortlock has been in a similar situation before which New Zealanders will remember well: the 22-10 semi-final victory for Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Then, ironically, it was Leon MacDonald who was the inexperienced player placed at outside centre to replace Tana Umaga, but Mortlock gave him a torrid time, including intercepting a pass to score the opening try.

Now MacDonald’s injury means that McAlister – more usually a fly-half or inside centre – must fill the number thirteen jersey opposite the Australian captain and stalwart Mortlock.

“Certainly having McAlister playing at 13 in a position that’s slightly foreign to him gives us a chance to go there,” Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said to reporters on Friday.

“Defensively 13 is quite different to 12. If we do our job well we can test him out there but I’m sure he’ll be expecting that anyway.”

It is a pivotal game for the Wallabies, written off for the World Cup by many until the battling defeat to South Africa of a fortnight ago.

A win against the All Blacks would confirm that they are getting back to form in the nick of time.

“There’s no doubt we’ve targeted this game as a very important one. We felt last year we improved in the three matches we played the All Blacks,” Mortlock said.

“We go in with a fair bit of confidence knowing if we play well we can get a result.”

“New Zealand have been that far ahead of everyone else over the past couple of years that realistically the teams below them have a lot more improvement left in them,” Mortlock said ahead of tomorrow’s Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“We’ve always been aware there’s a lot of improvement left in us. The difference between last year and this year has shown that.

“We’re fully aware that everything’s got to be in the right shape and you’ve got to peak at the right time. We’re lucky enough to have been thereabouts in most of the World Cup preparations we’ve been involved in lately.”

“The All Blacks side currently are number one in the world and there’s daylight second. That’s pretty much similar to where they were in 2003.

“It’s part and parcel of being the number one team, everyone gauges how well they’re going by how well they go against them.”

 

365 Digital

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