Wallabies warned against taking Wales lightly
As they eye a rare spring tour clean sweep, the Wallabies have been placed on notice that Wales will be anything but pushovers in Saturday’s Test at Millennium Stadium.
The warnings are coming from all quarters that the Six Nations champions are ready to claim a major southern hemisphere scalp after missing huge opportunities against South Africa and New Zealand in the past fortnight.
The Red Dragons suffered a narrow 20-15 loss to the Springboks before staring down the All Blacks during the haka and then leading the world’s top-ranked team at halftime on Saturday.
The Welsh eventually succumbed 29-9 but only after the All Blacks produced “probably the best 40 minutes of rugby we had produced all year”, according to coach Graham Henry.
“I was very impressed with Wales … and I think Wales are in with a decent shout of beating the Australians next weekend,” Henry said.
Welsh spirits were already high before the Red Dragons received another boost on Sunday night when star winger Shane Williams was named world player of the year.
The 31-year-old saw off competition from Wales captain Ryan Jones and New Zealand five-eighth Dan Carter to earn the award.
The pint-sized Williams scored six tries during the 2008 Six Nations and was also named player of the tournament as Wales completed the grand slam.
He also broke Gareth Thomas’ national tryscoring record in the title-clinching victory over France and has now scored 43 five-pointer in 60 Tests, including 14 in his last 13 starts.
“From a fullback’s point of view, you don’t want to see him one-on-one,” said former Wallabies fullback Chris Latham, now playing for Worcestor in England.
“He’s a very difficult man to defend and I’m sure that he’ll be one of the key players that Australia will be focusing on and making sure that you don’t give them too much room.”
But Latham, who rescued Australia with a spectacular solo try in a 29-29 draw in Cardiff two years ago, cautioned the Wallabies against believing Williams would be their only threat on Saturday.
“More than ever, the Welsh team is a more complete team,” he said.
“You’re always going to get Shane Wiiliams brought up every time but I think across the board they’re a team that has the ability to break you as a team.
“For me, that’s more of a danger than three or four individual talents.”
While his New Zealand countrymen will be seeking to complete a grand slam tour with victories over the four British home nations when they meet England at Twickenham on Saturday, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said his side shouldn’t be any less motivated because they won’t be be.
“It’s a Test match at Millennium Stadium. Fantastic,” Deans said.
“You’re playing against a nation that has a huge rugby history and they’re very proud of their facility, and with good reason.
“And to their people, it’s important. It’s religious. That adds to it. So it’s pretty hard not to be motivated to play their best. The Welsh should be pretty hungry.”
So should the Wallabies, though, after escaping with a somewhat fortuitous 18-13 win over France in icy cold Paris on Saturday night.
It may not be a grand slam but following on from victories over Italy and England the Wallabies now have the chance to become the first Australian side since 1996 to win four successive spring tour Tests.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Deans said. “We’ve played at some great venues.”© AAP 2013
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