Moore oblivious to Wallaby criticism

Oblivious to external criticism, Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore says the internal belief exists within the Australia team and himself to get things back on track in a must-win Test against South Africa.

Moore is a man under increasing pressure as he prepares to lead his teammates into battle against the Springboks on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.

The 33-year-old’s form, temperament and leadership have all been called into question amid the fallout from the Wallabies’ six-match losing streak.

He’s also copped a grilling for his lineout throws, scrum impact and even the way he speaks to referees.

Coach Michael Cheika defended Moore on Thursday, but conceded he was in a “competitive battle” to keep his spot ahead of reserve hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

A terse Moore already had his game face on when he fronted the media on Friday and was asked how he had dealt with criticism of his performances this week.

“Has there? OK, well, I haven’t really looked much at that,” Moore deadpanned.

“If you start looking at that stuff, you take your mind off what’s important.

“There’s a lot of belief in the team. I have got a lot of self belief about my role in the team.

“Every week, you get things you need to work on as a team and individually so we’ve gone and done that.

“Anything else is peripheral.”

Moore has just a 67 per cent success rate off his own throws after two rounds of the Rugby Championship, which has left Australia’s backline starved of clean ball.

But those inside Camp Wallaby have closed ranks around their captain, insisting he’s part of the solution – not the problem.

“He’s still regarded as one of the best hookers in the world,” assistant coach Stephen Larkham said.

“He had a super strong Super Rugby campaign, probably the best rugby I’ve ever seen him play.”

Cheika’s inclusion of Dean Mumm at blindside flanker for stalwart Scott Fardy, who has been dropped from the squad, is designed to help fix the lineout problems.

If it doesn’t, giant Springbok locks Lood de Jager and Eten Eztebeth – among world rugby’s best second-row pairings – will wreak havoc.

The only other Australian change was forced, with Reece Hodge to make his starting debut on the wing in place of Adam Ashley-Cooper, who is back in France on club duties.

“In fact this week we’re not changing too many combinations at all – we’re trying to give the guys as much opportunity to rectify the issues we’ve been having over the last five games,” Larkham said.

Cheika has opted for a 5-3 split of forwards and backs on his bench, leaving no room for the uncapped Lopeti Timani.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Adam Coleman, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sean McMahon, Tevita Kuridrani, Drew Mitchell.

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