Wallabies refuse to take All Blacks' bait on selections

 Kurtley Beale receives a pass as Peter Betham supports during a training session in Bathurst. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Kurtley Beale receives a pass as Peter Betham supports during a training session in Bathurst. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


The Wallabies are refusing to engage in All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's pre-Bledisloe psychological warfare, instead keeping their powder dry until hostilities begin in earnest on Saturday night.

Hansen fired a succession of shots across the Tasman before departing New Zealand on Thursday, with Kurtley Beale and coaching counterpart Ewen McKenzie his main targets.

Claiming to be "dumbfounded" by Beale's selection at five-eighth ahead of incumbent Bernard Foley, the All Blacks mentor suspected McKenzie promoted the off-contract star from the bench last Test to help keep him in rugby.

The Wallabies, though, are saving any retaliatory strikes until kick off, saying only that they're backing McKenzie's choice.

Halfback Nic White and inside centre Matt Toomua, who will play either side of Beale, said the classy playmaker had made a smooth transition into the No 10 role after playing inside centre during the NSW Waratahs' successful Super Rugby campaign.

"I think a lot of people forget that he's played 42 Tests, so he's leaps and bounds ahead of me, so he's dragging me along at the moment," White said.

Toomua noted how Beale played all his schoolboy football at five-eighth, as well as several Tests in the position and the 2008 Super Rugby final as a teenager.

"He's not going to be overawed by this by any means," said Toomua, who will also slot into flyhalf at times during the Rugby Championship opener at ANZ Stadium.

"I've played a bit there myself too. In saying that, he is calling the shots and I won't be stepping on his toes at all.

"He is the chief playmaker and we're more than comfortable having him there."

A known on-field sledger, White wasn't overly surprised by Hansen's apparent attempt to unsettle the Wallabies.

"Yeah, I don't know what his motives are there, but it's obviously interesting and it's a bit of conspiracy I guess," he said.

"But why not plant the seed if I was him?"

Hansen also took aim at the Wallabies talking about their need to end the All Blacks' 11-year domination but White said there was a level of quiet optimism in their ranks.

"Because a lot of teams have been confident coming up against the All Blacks and been done and done well," White said.

"So it's about that cautious confidence."

McKenzie, meanwhile, finalised his bench omitting back-rower Ben McCalman and deciding on a traditional 5-3 split of forwards and backline cover.



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