Wallabies in Grand Slam attempt
Wed, 05 Jun 2013 21:20
The Kiwis and the South Africans don't sing as well!
The Wallabies will attempt to emulate the class of 1984 after the addition of a Test against Wales confirmed this year's year-end tour as a possible Grand Slam event.
The Australian Rugby Union revealed that the Wallabies will tackle Wales at the Millennium Stadium on November 30 - which sets up the possibility of a sweep of the four Home Nations, while also extending the close relationship between Australia and Wales of recent seasons.
The Alan Jones-coached and Andrew Slack-led Wallabies of 1984 are the only side among the eight Australians outfits that have attempted a Grand Slam, to have achieved the feat.
This year's Test closes a tour which starts in London against England on November 2 and then runs through Tests against Italy, Ireland and Scotland on the following weekends.
It will be the Wallabies' ninth visit to the Welsh capital in as many years and will allow the team to attempt to equal the record for the most successive wins over Wales by an Australian team.
The Wallabies have won eight Tests in a row against the current Six Nations champions since 2009, which has pushed the team to within one win of the nine consecutive wins that were achieved between 1991 and 2003.
Injured flank David Pocock, who will miss the tour, centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and prop Ben Alexander are the only players to have featured in all eight matches.
Half of the eight previous wins have been secured in Cardiff, including last year's dramatic 14-12 win in the final Test of the year-end tour.
This represented the sixth game between the two nations in a 13-month period, which had kicked off when the two sides contested the third-place play-off at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
James Horwill, who captained the Wallabies at that tournament, and scored a try in the 33-12 success that kicked off the current winning sequence, welcomed the news of both the Grand Slam and another further playing opportunity in the Welsh capital.
"Cardiff is one of the great destinations in world rugby," Horwill said.
The population in Wales loves its rugby. They produce an enthusiasm and a fervour for the game, that rivals New Zealand, and South Africa in its intensity.
"But the Kiwis and the South Africans don't sing as well!" Horwill joked.
A member of the last Australian side to attempt a Grand Slam, four years ago, Horwill said the lessons of that tour will be invaluable for this year's assignment.
"Obviously it's still a wee way off, with the 2013 Lions Tour first on the agenda, followed by The Rugby Championship and the Bledisloe Cup; but the Grand Slam is a big thing and is something the players will look forward to and be excited about once they've earned the right to make that tour," Horwill said.
"You can't take participation for granted, and no one will, but it will be a great way to finish what is going to be one of the biggest years in the history of the game in Australia."
In 2009, Australia opened its Grand Slam attempt with a second consecutive win over England at Twickenham, but had the bid thwarted a week later in Dublin when an 80th minute try by Brian O'Driscoll in his 100th Test secured Ireland a 20-20 draw at Croke Park.
Australia fell 9-8 to Scotland a week later in Edinburgh, but bounced back from that disappointment to overpower a confident Wales 33-12 in the final game of the tour.
"There's a good core of guys in the squad now who were on that trip," Horwill said.
"Having the Grand Slam opportunity taken away in the final minute in Dublin like it was, wasn't the reason we lost the next week in Scotland, but there's no doubt that it's dangerous if it [the Grand Slam possibility] becomes too much of a focus.
"With so much rugby to play between now and then, I don't think it will be."
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans, who has masterminded the eight straight against Wales, also welcomed the addition of the Cardiff visit to the itinerary.
"You haven't experienced the passion and intensity of international rugby in totality until you have played Wales in Cardiff," Deans said.
"Playing Wales there is one of the ultimate assignments in the game, especially in the recent era where they have been the dominant team in the Northern Hemisphere. I think our recent history shows that we have always lifted for those games as we've had to against a quality opponent.
"The numerous games against Wales in recent times have only enhanced the relationship and the rivalry between the two teams, not diminished it. The James Bevan Trophy [the trophy the two teams play for, which was named for the first Wales captain, who was a Australian-born] means a lot to us. We've had to work hard to keep it."
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