Wallabies preparing as if for World Cup final
November 26, 2013
Ewen McKenzie wants one more intense performance from his Wallabies © Getty Images
Australia must approach their final Test of the year, against Six Nations champions Wales, as they would a Rugby World Cup final, Ewen McKenzie says after drawing parallels with what they can expect in two years' time. The James Bevan Trophy Test is Australia's 15th match of a long and turbulent year, and their fifth in as many weeks in Europe, but McKenzie refuses to allow the use fatigue of as excuse for his weary players.
"You are getting towards what you need to do to play a World Cup over here, play five hard Tests in a row," McKenzie said, noting that Australia will confront the home side and Wales in their final two matches in the "pool of death" at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England before hopefully playing a quarter-final, semi-final and final on successive weekends at Twickenham.
"Five weeks in a row at a big venue, big games, knockout; the way it lines up for me if you were playing a final, this would be it."
For those very reasons, McKenzie is pushing for another extended five-week end-of-year tour of Europe in 2014, when his team is likely to play England, Wales, France, Ireland and possibly one other Test team or a Barbarians side as well as midweek matches.
McKenzie, meanwhile, will not rest leading players against a Wales side desperate to end their eight-match losing streak to the Wallabies, despite many of his stars having played 30-plus games this year.
"You have to front up so it's not a time to be talking about rest and recovery," he said. "As I said to the guys, you want to breast the line; you don't want to wind down. You need to go hard, and that's where this five-week campaign is at. The World Cup is even longer [at seven weeks] so it's even more of a mental challenge."
Australia haven't won four Tests in row on an end-of-year tour since 1996, while victory over Wales will see the trip branded a success and give McKenzie a break-even 6-6 record after replacing Robbie Deans and losing his first three Tests in charge.
Victory will also deliver another psychological advantage heading towards the Rugby World Cup 2015, especially with Wales having not defeated Australia since 2008.
Wales will be without British & Irish Lions stars Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Adam Jones, but they hope Alex Cuthbert will return from injury to join fellow starting Lions George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Mike Phillips, Sam Warburton, Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Richard Hibbard and Toby Faletau in the side.
The Wallabies, meanwhile, are set to reunite the midfield combination that played in the 2-1 series loss, with Adam Ashley-Cooper to return from suspension at outside centre alongside goal kicker Christian Leali'ifano.
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