Wales wary of Wallabies’ deadly mix
Wales coach Warren Gatland says Australia’s possession of Robbie Deans, Matt Giteau, supreme confidence and old-fashioned street smarts makes the Wallabies a very dangerous proposition for the Six Nations champions.
Gatland on Tuesday said the Red Dragons would enter Saturday’s Test at Millennium Stadium with nothing but respect for a Wallabies outfit shooting for a fourth straight win on their season-ending European tour.
“The great thing about Australians is that they always bring out a certain amount of confidence,” he said.
“Whatever sport they’ve been involved in they’re probably the greatest overachievers of any nation in the world.
“And I meant that as a compliment. Whatever sport, they’ve been able to compete with a lot of teams and terms of winning world titles. They have a lot of confidence and self belief.
“But they are also pretty critical of each other. I think that brings out the best in them. You know, they’re winners and that’s why they are pretty successful.”
Gatland also agreed with Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll and former England skipper Phil Vickery, who this year both rated the Wallabies the shrewdest team in world rugby.
“Not just the rugby but as a nation, they’re very analytical and they look at stats and assess and are able to get the best out of whatever resources they’ve got,” Gatland said.
“That’s definitely been a strength. They go away and analyse an opposition, they come up with ideas and they execute, and their attention to detail is what makes them very good.”
But when it’s all said and done, all the confidence and preparation in the world counts for nothing if the players don’t perform on the paddock.
That’s where Giteau gives the Wallabies a vital edge, according to Gatland, who ranks Australia’s playmaker as equally influential as All Blacks star Dan Carter.
“They’re quite similar in terms of if Carter’s on top of his game and dominating the game, then the All Blacks get a flow,” he said.
“The same with Australia, they’re relying on (Giteau’s) kicking game and also his running game as well.
“So we’ve just got to make sure we shut down his space. One of the things he does very well is he gets some pretty good distance between nine and 10, which does stress opposition defences a lot.
“And for a player who’s not big, he’s deceptively strong in that tackle area. He runs nice lines and knows when to take the gap as well.
“We did a lot of work last week (on containing Carter) and it will be the same this week in terms of trying to shut down Matt’s game.”
Gatland said he was looking forward to pitting his wits against fellow New Zealander Deans and then “having a beer together afterwards”.
“He’s been a great acquisition for Australian rugby, a big loss to New Zealand and I can only see this Australian side getting better and better over the next few seasons towards the World Cup (in 2011),” Gatland said after making two changes to his side to face the Wallabies.
He recalled winger Mark Jones and veteran lock Ian Gough in place of teenager Leigh Halfpenny and the injured Ian Evans respectively.
© AAP 2013
Wales: Lee Byrne, Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams, Stephen Jones, Gareth Cooper, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (capt), Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Richard Hibbard, John Yapp, Luke Charteris, Dafydd Jones, Martin Roberts, James Hook, Andrew Bishop.