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Mortlock in rallying cry to Wallabies

AUSTRALIA captain Stirling Mortlock will have a simple message for his players during the Tri-Nations opener against New Zealand at Eden Park today.

"Keep on keeping on," Mortlock told reporters at the team hotel in Auckland yesterday.

After the bitter rivals split their first two Bledisloe Cup encounters with one-sided victories, Australia held second-half leads in both Brisbane and Hong Kong before the All Blacks stormed home to win the matches 28-24 and 19-14.

"I have been lucky to play a lot of Bledisloe matches and they are extremely tough battles that go the full distance," Mortlock said.

"You can't be happy with having a lead, you have to back yourself for the full 80, and hopefully we'll get it done."

Mortlock said he had noticed a considerable change in his side from the one that came to Eden Park almost 12 months ago and was comprehensively thrashed 10-39, a week after smashing the All Blacks 34-19 in Sydney.

"I just the think the nucleus of the squad has grown a lot," he said.

"Our understanding and clarity about what we're trying to achieve has improved and that shows in our training, mentality and I guess probably in the confidence the guys have in each other as well. It's all about building. Robbie (Deans) is big on us keeping on moving forward."

Deans, in the second year of his campaign to build a squad capable of winning the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, said he was more pleased the focus this year was on the players than his return to the country of his birth.

Last year, his showdown with Graham Henry -- who was reappointed to the All Blacks job after the 2007 World Cup despite many picking Deans to replace him -- took much of the focus.

"It was ludicrous this time last year and everyone was talking about it. I suppose it was of interest, but the reality is it's Wallabies against All Blacks and I think we're settling into a more normal frequency because it is about these blokes."


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