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Updated at 10.23
FORMER WALLABY PETER FitzSimons mocked the All Blacks as “old and slow” just days after a Sydney tabloid labelled them “senior citizens”, stirring the pot ahead of a crunch Bledisloe Cup clash.
Their brazen confidence follows Australia stunning the world champions 47-26 in Perth last weekend, although the New Zealanders were a man down for the entire second half after lock Scott Barrett was sent off.
FitzSimons, now a media commentator, said the Wallabies “simply outclassed the All Blacks” in the record win.
“They humiliated those poor All Blacks and it was good for rugby,” he said on Newstalk ZB radio.
The scale of the defeat raised questions about whether New Zealand’s dominance was at an end, and about the wisdom of relying on players aged over 30.
“Sonny Bill Williams is 34, how’s Sonny Bill going to go up against James O’Connor?” FitzSimons said. “The All Blacks just looked a bit old and slow.”
Earlier this week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph poked fun at the “Old Blacks” by manipulating photos of Williams, skipper Kieran Read (33) and Sam Whitelock (30) to make them look like elderly men.
Williams responded by saying he had faith in the senior players to win the match in Auckland and retain the annual Bledisloe Cup, which Australia have not won since 2002.
In response to the Perth defeat, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen dumped veteran prop Owen Franks and wings Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane, who have a combined total of 213 Test caps.
“I don’t think it’s a risk and there’s lots of reward in it,” said Hansen, after opting for the relatively raw talent of Nepo Laulala (18 Tests), George Bridge (three) and Sevu Reece (one).
Even against a New Zealand team built around over 30s, Australia face a huge task in Auckland on Saturday.