With the Wallabies missing two of their leaders, Quade Cooper has stepped up to help his troubled team try to match the might of the All Blacks.
The Australians headed straight from Melbourne to Dunedin to prepare for Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup match after being crushed 38-7 in the opening encounter at the MCG.
The Wallabies have lost Allan Alaalatoa, who led the team on Saturday night, with the prop undergoing surgery on a ruptured achilles. Co-captain Michael Hooper remains sidelined indefinitely with a calf issue.
Playmaker Cooper started on the bench at the MCG but the animated 35-year-old could be seen laying down the law to the team for several minutes in a post-match huddle.
Youngster Tom Hooper, who made his starting debut at openside flanker, revealed Cooper took him aside at half-time and told him not to try to replicate his namesake, Michael Hooper.
Coach Eddie Jones opted for the 21-year-old, who usually plays at six, rather than smaller fetcher Fraser McReight, to try to physically dominate New Zealand.
The move appeared to work early on but grew less effective as the All Blacks cruised home.
“I probably changed my game a bit too much and Quade had some really wise words at half-time and said, ‘We need you to play more like a lock than a seven, that’s why they’ve picked a big body’,” Tom Hooper said.
“I probably went hunting a bit too much for the ball, if I’m being critical of myself, and I probably wasn’t as physical as I would have liked.”
The Wallabies missed more than twice as many tackles as the Kiwis but were forced to make 64 more than their rivals as they tried to stem their onslaught.
Former NRL great Brett Hodgson is new to the defence coach role, and to rugby union, and has come in for criticism, but Hooper defended the tactics.
“There are the slight tweaks but I think it’s not the framework that’s the problem,” the Brumbies star said.
“He’s given us a really good defensive system to work with, it’s just our ability to execute and make those one on one tackles.”
Hooper said the winless group remained tight, backed by Jones, who was “comforting”.
“He knows we’re all hurting, he knows we’re all humans and when you get beaten by a score like that you’re not coming off with a smile on your face,” Hooper said.
“He knows we all feel it and he’s going to channel that anger onto the training pitch and make sure we get quality work done in this week and that’s how we’re going to present a better performance.”