Wallabies' Samu relishing 'pretty special' clash with Crusaders teammates

The banter has already started between Wallabies backrower Pete Samu and some of the Crusaders teammates he could be lining up against in just more than a week.

Samu, who earned his first three Test caps off the bench in June, was part of the Crusaders squad that last weekend clinched back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

The 26-year-old forward also came off the pine for the Crusaders two final wins over the Lions in 2017 and 18, but will play for the Brumbies next year.

He arrived back in Australia on Wednesday and headed to the Wallabies camp at Cessnock in the Hunter region of NSW.

Friends will quickly become foes if Samu makes the 23 for Australia's first Bledisloe cup and Rugby Championship match of the season on Saturday week in Sydney.

The All Blacks squad off 33 for the Rugby Championship named on Monday included ten Crusaders.

"I gave them a bit of chat before I left," Samu said.

"But it will be quite good, a good Test and I told them it will be just like a Thursday training out there seeing them all.

"But it will be pretty good, pretty special as well."

Samu was only cleared by New Zealand Rugby to join Australia less than a week before the start of the three-Test home series against Ireland.

"I think coming over now post-Super, I know a lot from being in those June Tests, so it's not really too bad transitioning from there," Samu said.

After playing in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and a stint in England, Samu's career took off in New Zealand and he attracted the attention of Wallabies' coach Michael Cheika through his efforts for the Crusaders.

"It definitely feels like a dream, back-to back champions," Samu said.

"It's pretty special playing with a good bunch of boys back there and some lifelong friends that I made over there, but it's good to finish there on a high."

Cheika will on Sunday name a reduced squad, which will be based in Sydney in the lead-up to the following Saturday's game at ANZ Stadium.

Pete Samu, Ryan Crotty and Seta Tamanivalu. Crusaders v Lions, Super Rugby Final, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand. 4 August 2018. Copyright Image: www.photosport.nz
Crusaders players Pete Samu, Ryan Crotty and Seta Tamanivalu embrace after winning the 2018 Super Rugby final against the Lions at AMI Stadium in Christchurch. Source: Photosport


'We have never had an easy game in Sydney' - All Blacks expecting physical first Bledisloe Test

The All Blacks are toning back their Wallabies-are-favourites line but believe the Sydney factor makes the Bledisloe Cup opener a danger game.

Coach Steve Hansen swivelled heads on both sides of the Tasman when he said Australia were "worthy of starting as favourites" to reclaim the silverware they ceded in 2003.

The merits of the claim have been challenged by former Wallaby Stirling Mortlock, who told AAP it was "tripe".

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster backed away from the debate, describing favouritism for the three-match series as irrelevant.

However, he was sure next week's Test would be a sizeable challenge for the world champions, who have only won 11 of 23 Tests in Sydney since 1990.

That theory brushes over the last two meetings, which the All Blacks have won 42-8 and 54-34.

"All I know is we have never had an easy game in Sydney," Foster said.

"We have had a couple of games, I guess in my time, where the score has blown out a couple of times and I have also been on the back of a couple of losses.

"That is all we need to focus on. They are building and they are pretty energetic about this game and we need to be as well."

The All Blacks coaches have scrutinised Australia's 2-1 series loss to Ireland in June closely.

Foster said Michael Cheika's side played with more ambition than the Irish and, with more luck, could have potentially won the series 3-0.

Those matches were of more value than monitoring the more recent form of Australia's premier players in Super Rugby, he said.

However, Foster conceded the Waratahs' attacking methods based around Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley could provide a key pointer.

"I think they will take some confidence about the way that the Waratahs finished the campaign and there is no doubt they played some pretty special rugby in patches in that last two or three weeks," Foster said.

"When you look at the key components with Beale, Folau and Foley you have clearly got some good combinations that they will work around."

New Zealand's preparations continue in Christchurch on Friday when their players get game time in consecutive 40-minute hit-outs against provincial selection teams from Canterbury and Otago.

The reduced number of Super Rugby teams in Australia has the Wallabies in better shape for the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks coach has said. Source: 1 NEWS



Positional battles heat up at blindside flanker as Frizell, Hemopo look to push case in ‘game of three halves’

Nearly a week after the Crusaders claimed their ninth Super Rugby title, rugby fever is still very much buzzing in Christchurch with tomorrow's game of three halves a sellout occasion.

Ahead of the first Bledisloe Test in Sydney next weekend, not all positions are locked down in the side, meaning players will get the chance to impress the All Blacks coaches tomorrow night.

One player hoping to do that is Ardie Savea, who missed the end of the Hurricanes’ season due to an ankle sprain sustained in the French series in June.

"I think I’m raring to go and hopefully get through training and hopefully get a good bit of game time tomorrow night," he said.

Assistant coach Ian Foster told media today it isn’t Savea's ability that will stop him from running out in black in Sydney.

"He doesn't have lot of prove in terms of his form," he said regarding Savea’s spell on the sideline.

"He's just go to convince himself that he’s back."

While Sam Cane appears to have the No.7 jersey locked down, competition for the bench spots and blindside flanker couldn't be higher.

Loosies Shannon Frizell and Jackson Hemopo have become contenders after impressing on Test debut in Dunedin, Foster said.

"[They] will all have a chance to go out there and do what they do within our game plan and push their case," he said.

"There's a number of guys we need to see have a good hit out, so that's one box we've got to tick and see how everyone shapes up after the campaigns they've had."

Ahead of the first Bledisloe Test in Sydney, there’s still starting spots up for grabs. Source: 1 NEWS