Breakaway Michael Hooper believes the true value of the Wallabies' victory against Argentina last weekend will only be fully known by how well Australia play against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday week.
The Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks in Dunedin since August 11, 2001, at Carisbrook when they won 23-15. And the odds of a breakthrough win next week at Forsyth Barr Stadium look slim in a Rugby Championship that the All Blacks have dominated.
But Hooper, the Wallabies No.7, is confident Australia will be far better prepared to face the All Blacks this time than in their first and second matches against the Kiwis that ended in a 29-47 loss in Sydney on August 17 and a 27-16 defeat at Wellington on August 24.
Hooper also said the Wallabies, having reacquainted themselves with the art of scoring tries in their 54-17 win against Argentina in Rosario last weekend, will relish the opportunity to see where they stand against a crack All Blacks side that wrapped up the Rugby Championship last week with their 38-27 win against the Springboks in Johannesburg.
“It's totally different time of the year now,” Hooper said of the last clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks.
“We were then two weeks together with a new coach and new squad. Now we are six or seven weeks down the track. We have been improving each week in training and trying to do the work on the weekend … not getting the results [until] finally in the Argentinean game.
"It's an exciting prospect now, knowing that we can score tries going into playing the best team in the world.”
On Wednesday, Hooper was awarded the Castrol Wallabies Strongest Player trophy with the strength of his performances in the Rugby Championship with one round to go giving him an unassailable lead in the competition based on votes from the Fairfax Media panel.
He realises that the All Blacks will not be treating this next Test any less even though the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup are both theirs.
Hooper expects the All Blacks will tap into their memory banks and recall the hurt of their disappointment after the third Test between the two sides at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane last year when the Wallabies held them to an 18-all draw, ending their unbeaten run of 16 Test wins which was two victories short of the world record held by Lithuania.
However, Hooper said the Wallabies were also disappointed to let such a rare opportunity to beat New Zealand slip through their grasp.
“They had a winning streak that was going to [possibly] be the best in the world. We stopped that,” he said.
“But we didn't get the win and were disappointed. I want to beat these guys. So does everyone in the team.”
Hooper also realises the plaudits the Wallabies received for their win against Argentina will count for nought if they produce a sub-par performance next week.
“We go out and win and people say we are on track and doing really well. Lose, and people say we are back to square one,” said Hooper, who is also looking forward to his fourth head to head clash in Test rugby against Richie McCaw.
“He played some really good games against us in the start of the Championship,” Hooper said of McCaw.
“He will always be a presence on the field no matter how old he gets, or how injured he is.
"He is a class player who someone like me wants to face and take on.”