Rugby: Wallabies captain Hooper admits Australia in 'dark' place after record loss to All Blacks

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper (centre, left) getting tackled by All Blacks players during their Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney on Oct 31, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (AFP) - Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper admitted on Friday (Nov 6) that his team were in a "dark" place this week after being thrashed by the All Blacks, but insisted the scoreline did not tell the full story.

New Zealand's 43-5 rout in Sydney last weekend was their highest winning margin against Australia and sealed the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year with a game to spare.

Hooper said the defeat was crushing for Australia, coming on the back of a 27-7 loss in Auckland after a battling 16-16 draw in Wellington.

The fourth and final game is in Brisbane on Saturday, with both teams flying in and out on match day from Sydney due to coronavirus restrictions.

"It took us a while to get out of the hole to be fair," Hooper said. "I know I can speak for myself that it was pretty dark, it's still a bit dark, letting that opportunity slip and particularly the performance we put out there.

"It wasn't up to the standard that we've set for ourselves."

Australia were outplayed in all departments in Sydney, with the All Blacks physically too strong and again exposing the Wallabies' defensive wall.

Coach Dave Rennie has made a raft of changes, with Reece Hodge, usually a wing or fullback, promoted to playmaker, Tom Banks in for Dane Haylett-Petty and Tom Wright taking over from Filipo Daugunu in the backs.

Lachlan Swinton has been handed a debut at flanker, while veteran Rob Simmons has been brought in for the injured Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in a new-look pack.

"How do we prepare for this week? We'll obviously be... rectifying some of that stuff from last week and improving," said Hooper. "You've got to take the negatives, and some of the positives, from that game and start to move forward and that is what we had to do this week."

Australia go into the game in Brisbane - which doubles as a fixture in the Tri Nations, also including Argentina - with a solid record at the Suncorp Stadium, winning six Tests there in a row.

They have also won three of their last four against New Zealand in the Queensland capital, including a 23-18 win in October 2017, the last time they met there.

'Backs against the wall'

Hooper insisted the scoreline in Sydney was not an accurate reflection of where the Wallabies were at.

"I feel we're closer, absolutely," he said. "New Zealand played really well, and we played poorly. Like in any game in sport, that happens.

"But we are much better. If we improve our stuff and put a lot more pressure on New Zealand, that will change. I think we saw that in the first game."

All Blacks skipper Sam Cane warned that for New Zealand "no game is a dead rubber", but said he was wary of a wounded Wallabies team desperate to bounce back.

"They've always been a side that plays well with their backs against the wall, and you could say that's where they are at the moment," he said. "For me, I see it as a massive challenge for us. I look at our record at Suncorp and it's not something we're proud of so we'll make sure we do everything we can to go up there and get a good win against them."

Coach Ian Foster has made eight personnel changes to his starting XV, with four debutants in the squad, including back-rower Akira Ioane in the run-on side.

Cane said he expected the newcomers to bring "energy and excitement".

"It's great for them because they've worked out what the All Blacks are about, how we train and what's required of them," he said. "Now they can just go out there, be themselves and play."

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