Australia

Payback from McKenzie's Wallabies

Thu, 28 Nov 2013 12:16
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We enjoy playing in front of hostile crowds
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Australia will be looking for a measure of 'payback' when the Wallabies play Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Coached by Warren Gatland, who guided the British and Irish Lions to a Test series win over Australia in July that resulted in Robbie Deans axing as coach and the appointment of Ewen McKenzie, Wales have enjoyed a mixed November.

They were outmuscled by South Africa, before bouncing back with a convincing win over Argentina before a 17-7 victory over Tonga last week.

The Wallabies, under their new coach, McKenzie, have travelled a similarly rocky road to Saturday's year-ending Test at the Millennium Stadium.

It started with three defeats (New Zealand twice and South Africa), then a win (against Argentina), defeat (against the Boks again), victory (over the Pumas) and a third defeat against the All Blacks to finish the Rugby Championship second from bottom.

After losing their opening Test on the European tour, against England earlier this month, the Wallabies have since beaten Italy, Ireland and the Scots over the last three weeks.

McKenzie said Saturday would be a good opportunity to finish the season on a high, note while also continuing Australia's eight-game win streak over Wales.

"We are trying to be a consistent side which can come up with answers no matter what the circumstance or environment," McKenzie said after he recalled banned backs Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins to the starting line-up for Saturday's outing.

"We are enjoying playing in big venues in front of hostile crowds, but being consistent in that space is where we want to be.

"Our journey at the moment is around that and four wins in a row to end the season would be fantastic."

And it would gift the Australians a measure of satisfaction if they beat a Welsh team that includes no fewer than 11 Lions tourists.

While he made changes to the backline for the Cardiff encounter, the starting pack remained unchanged.

However, Dave Dennis and Kane Douglas were named amongst the replacements instead of strong scrummager Sitaleki Timani, with McKenzie hopeful the duo can make an impact off the bench on the Welsh line-out.

"The source of [Wales'] innovative play comes from line-outs," the coach told Australia media on the announcement of the team on Thursday.

"We've been going quite well on the line-out in attack and defence, so it's an area where we think there's some strategic opportunity.

"Whatever pressure there is that we can generate, the ball goes into touch, we want to be able to play from the line-out, and they like to, too, so if we can deny them opportunity that changes the nature of the game."

While Gatland has led Wales to Six Nations success, they have only won one of 22 Tests against the three Southern Hemisphere heavyweights since he started in 2008.

The successful British and Lions coach this week tried to downplay that record by saying their previous home November matches had been used as preparation for their Six Nations campaigns.

"I think that's a good way to explain the record," McKenzie countered.

"If you look at the record in his era we're (8-1) and they're zero against New Zealand and zero against South Africa.

"This year they've decided it's suddenly time to go out and compete ... but I don't know why they didn't since 2008.

"We're treating it like a grand final and we think it's important."

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