Argentina

Unified Wallabies 'circle the wagons'

Mon, 09 Sep 2013 08:41
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We need a physical challenge to get ourselves right
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Australian players and coaching staff spoke of remaining unified and circling the wagons, as they look to end a four-match losing streak and avoid their worst run in recent years.

Wallaby back Christian Lealiifano said Monday the team remain unified, despite three straight losses under new coach Ewen McKenzie.

Their record 12-38 defeat to South Africa in the Rugby Championship in Brisbane at the weekend was Australia's fourth defeat in a row and the third since McKenzie took over from Robbie Deans.

The pressure is building on the Wallabies ahead of Saturday's Test against Argentina in Perth, which could decide the destination of this season's wooden spoon in the Southern Hemisphere tournament.

The Wallabies are still some distance from their worst run, an 11-match losing streak that stretched from September 1936 to June 1947.

Before that the Wallabies' worst run was a seven-match losing streak in Eddie Jones' ill-fated last year in charge in 2005 - against South Africa, New Zealand, France and England.

The last time they lost more than two matches in a row was in 2010, with three successive defeats at the hands of the All Blacks and Springboks, while the year before they lost four matches in a row against the same opposition.

Not surprising then that some self-doubt have started to set into the minds of the Australian public.

McKenzie regarded a confrontational Argentinean outfit as the perfect opponents for his besieged Wallabies and spoke of his team "circling the wagons" this week.

Lealiifano also said the team is backing the a coach still finding his feet on the international stage.

Australia have not lost to the Pumas since 1997 in Buenos Aires and inside centre Lealiifano said the team remained upbeat despite their disastrous start to the Rugby Championship.

"The boys are really tight," Lealiifano told reporters.

"It's tough when you're not getting the results. Everyone sort of looks back on the team culture and thinks that it might take a bit of a hit.

"But the boys are really sticking tight and not much is fazing us. We've just got to look after our own game and hopefully produce the results."

Both the Wallabies and Argentina have yet to win in this year's four-nation series, although the Pumas have a bonus point to relegate Australia to last spot at the halfway stage of the tournament.

McKenzie said he may have to change his attacking game plan after Australia slumped to their worst losing streak in four years against South Africa.

The Wallabies have won just one of their six Tests this season - following Saturday's record mauling by the Springboks and they are fighting to avoid a fifth straight loss.

Under McKenzie, the Wallabies have conceded a total of 12 tries in two losses to the All Blacks and one to the Springboks.

McKenzie admitted the abrasive and highly physical Pumas presented another big challenge against his under-strength, inexperienced forward pack.

"It's not an easy game at all," the coach said. "But it's the sort of game we need.

"We need a physical challenge to get ourselves right."

Missing captain James Horwill in the second row, as well as a number of other enforcers, Australia have recalled powerhouse lock Sitaleki Timani to their squad and he could add grunt for the Patersons Stadium clash.

The Wallabies scrum has struggled to adapt to the new soft engagement laws and will face another tough assignment against the big Pumas pack.

"Everyone is going to be a bit iffy about us this week," McKenzie said.

"But I'm looking forward to the challenge of grabbing the rugby public back and showing that we're fair dinkum.

"I don't see this as insurmountable by any stretch. It's just a matter of getting the focus on the right things.

"Confidence is a big part of that.

"We'll circle the wagons and get on with the game next week.

''Argentina have their own brand of rugby and they're very good at it, and they top it up with a very abrasive style, [being] very confrontational up front,'' McKenzie said.

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