Wallabies skipper Hooper fit to face All Blacks

Australia's Will Genia in action against Scotland at Murrayfield in November last year

Australia's Will Genia in action against Scotland at Murrayfield in November last year

Australia are favourites for this weekend's Rugby Championship opener with New Zealand despite the All Blacks being defending champions, says Steve Hansen.

Australia won their last meeting against New Zealand in Brisbane in 2017 and Genia said they wanted to repeat that form in Saturday's first Bledisloe Test, which doubles as the opening match of the Rugby Championship.

Genia felt the Wallabies were building nicely towards next year's World Cup following the recent tight series against Six Nations champions Ireland.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is expected to keep Folau at No.15 despite the temptation of shifting the superstar to outside centre, while the hosts are expected to continue the Folau-focused tactic of short kick-offs.

Ben Smith said the All Blacks' dominant record over their trans-Tasman rivals since 2002, when the Wallabies last held the Bledisloe, was "irrelevant", and pointed instead to the hard-fought series past year as a true indication of the difference between the two sides.

"The work Mick has been doing with them, their running lines are really good, their passes have got a lot better, so it's going to make them even more unsafe", Hansen said.

Australia scrumhalf Will Genia would never turn down a World Cup win if one came along but the Wallabies playmaker believes wresting the Bledisloe Cup away from New Zealand would be an even greater prize.

"I think that was a big trademark of our game when we played them last time in Brisbane".

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"I'm sure throughout the preparations this week we'll be focusing on trying to start the game with a bang and with that focus it will put us in a good position". "It was a titanic struggle for the other two games".

New Zealand have been the dominant force in the competition, winning five of the six editions since the addition of Argentina in 2012 and finishing last season's tournament with a flawless 6-0 record.

By the time the third Test at Suncorp Stadium rolled around they were on the ball, trailing by one point at the break, leading at 60 minutes and winning 23-18.

"It's just around decision-making I think".

"You'd call him a utility player and because of that he gets moved around a lot so it's probably to his disadvantage".

"I just think you've got to make good decisions when it comes to that part of the game, you've got to make really good decisions because if you don't quite get that right we've seen over the last few months that you can spend time on the sidelines", he said.

"We were just talking about it during the week, how big the crowds were and how much the support was behind Australia especially when we doing well", Hodge said.

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