Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper reckons booking a genuine Bledisloe Cup warm-up game could help rid the team of future rustiness.
Despite a gruelling four-week pre-Rugby Championship training program designed to whip them into shape, most Australian players went into last weekend’s first Test against New Zealand sorely lacking in match fitness.
Save for those contracted to the Brumbies, the squad hadn’t played competitive rugby since mid-July — and it showed in the 54-34 defeat.
In contrast, the All Blacks were hardened for battle by the recent British and Irish Lions series — as well as having four franchises involved in the Super Rugby finals.
They also stage an annual ‘Game of Three Halves’ warm-up fixture against local sides Taranaki and Counties.
Hooper believes the Wallabies should consider doing the same, provided a strong enough opposition — like an Australian Barbarians outfit — can be arranged.
“It definitely has some merit. I don’t think an in-house game is the way forward,” Hooper said.
“If you are practising and using calls, there’s no point playing a game where the other team knows them too.
“But against another team?
“We did it back in 2013 against a club on the Sunshine Coast and it wasn’t productive at all because we were too dominant.
“If you could find an Aussie BaaBaas or something like that, then there might be some good merit in an idea like that.
“Obviously there is the risk of injury to consider as well.”
The Wallabies had a similar problem during last year’s Bledisloe series, blowing out the cobwebs with a similarly poor performance in their opener before improving markedly in their next match.
Hooper said there was nothing wrong with Australia’s preparation but admitted being even five per cent off against New Zealand is a recipe for disaster.
“Certainly in the thinking of doing the same thing and expecting a different result, maybe we could look at something different,” Hooper said.
“I wouldn’t have changed the prep. I was happy with the prep and the senior players and coaches were, so we went into that game well prepared.”
The Wallabies will name their team on Thursday for the second Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin.