Never mind the All Blacks’ patchy build-up, Wallaby rugby great John Eales still favours them to beat his countrymen in Auckland on Saturday night.
Eales, who’s just had his first skiing experience on an 11-day holiday in Queenstown with his four kids, concedes Australia are “on the rise” but he’s wary they haven’t beaten New Zealand at Eden Park since 1986.
“If the game’s played 10 times there, NZ will probably win seven, so hopefully this will be one of the three,” says Eales, 39.
“I played in a couple of losses there in my time.”
Not that it’s a feeling he experienced often – as Australia’s most successful captain, Eales lifted the World Cup in 1999, the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup four times and the Tri Nations trophy in the only two seasons the Wallabies have won it.
In his first year of Test rugby, Eales was part of the Wallaby side that beat England in the 1991 World Cup final – Australia’s first of two World Cup victories. And he retired as the most-capped lock of all time.
While in Queenstown, Eales caught up with his former kicking coach Ben Perkins, who he credits for his nailing the penalty goal that won the Bledisloe Cup for Australia in Wellington in 2000.
Perkins, who’s godfather to Eales’s daughter Sophia, 8, has also shaped the kicking games of Wallabies Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Cameron Shepherd – he had a kickaround with them when they came through Queenstown with Super 14 side the Western Force in March. Winger Mitchell and pivot Giteau have been named to face the All Blacks on Saturday night.
“As captain, [Perkins] was a good guy to bounce ideas off,” Eales says. “You need that as a leader.
“I still use him as a sounding board.”
Eales also rates the Wallabies’ Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, whom he backed for the job in 2007.
“He’s got no premeditated ideas, he’s just a really good person to have in there.
“He’s been exceptionally well received and he’s got players back playing for their clubs.”
Rated Australia’s greatest player, Eales reveals how he came to be nicknamed “Nobody” – as in “nobody’s perfect”.
During an end-of-year tour, players had to find cheap presents with which to wind up their teammates.
Mitch Hardy gave Eales the children’s book Mr Perfect from the Mr Men series.
“Camp [David Campese], who was on his last tour, said, ‘that’s ridiculous, nobody’s perfect’ – then told someone in the media, and it caught on.
“No one in the team ever called me that.”
Eales, who left yesterday, says he’d love to have another holiday in Queenstown.
Postcard from Queenstown: tracking Team Eales
Skiing at Coronet
John Eales took his family skiing for the first time but says he was the last of them to get the hang of it.
“You have to be prepared to be really bad at something – and I was.
“My six-year-old was always two runs ahead of me, minimum.
“[NZSki director] Mike Davies and his family and staff were just outstanding, they really made our stay very special.”
Not a luge natural
Australia’s greatest Wallaby says he took to the Skyline luge in a babysitting capacity.
“The kids loved it. I was going down staccato-like while the others raced around.”
Once is just enough
Yes, the towering lock bungy-jumped off AJ Hackett Bungy’s Kawarau Bridge, as did most of his family, although it doesn’t sound like it’s something he’d do again. “It was a unique experience,” he says, choosing his words carefully. And no, he didn’t get dunked.