Wallabies preparing as if for World Cup final
November 26, 2013
Ewen McKenzie wants one more intense performance from his Wallabies © Getty Images
Matches: Wales 26 - 30 Australia
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.
Arsene Wenger has named an attacking Arsenal side with a patched-up defence as they attempt to complete a miracle Champions League comeback against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena
Stoke City have issued their disappointment at the FA's decision to reject the red card given to Jonathan Walters in Saturday's clash with Norwich, claiming it supports a "lack of consistency"
Quevega bagged a sixth consecutive Mares' Hurdle to make Cheltenham history and provide a bumper start for trainer Willie Mullins, but the opening day of the 2014 Festival was marred by a fatal injuy to Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle
Judd Trump wasted little time in staking his claims for the World Open title as he dispatched wildcard Chen Zifan 5-0 in his first round match
Younes Kaboul will be available for Saturday's north London derby against Arsenal at White Hart Lane after the FA rescinded the red card he received in Tottenham's 4-0 defeat to Chelsea
Lewis Hamilton may not have come close to matching his 2008 title-winning season in recent years, but the regulations shake-up and the powerful Mercedes engine could see him sweep all before him in Formula One this season
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
The events of last Saturday night in Las Vegas should be educational for all concerned with Froch-Groves II at Wembley, writes Steve Bunce
Apparently only one person has been on the winning side in 100 Tests, or 100 rugby internationals, or 100 football internationals - who are they?
Pat McCabe has been used as a battering ram; he has been forced to undergo the most selfless of tasks; his footballing career has repeatedly been assumed to be over; but he just keeps producing
Juan Mata wants to play in the No.10 role for Manchester United and does not see himself as the winger manager David Moyes is using him as
Jose Mourinho has taken a swipe at Chelsea's Premier League rivals by insisting one of them has become "the king of penalties"
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud wants to move on from the scandal caused by allegations that he spent the night with an underwear model in the team hotel
Aly Cissokho is set to return to Spain at the end of the season as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers prepares to look elsewhere to strengthen his defence
Bayern Munich midfielder Tony Kroos has put Manchester United on red alert after he admitting the Premier League is "a possibility for me"
The last time the British and Irish Lions toured Down Under, they lost out 2-1 to Australia in the series despite winning the first Test.
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of experts, 11 of Saturday's star performers, along with a manager, are carefully chosen. Do you agree or disagree?
Joga Bonito's gone out of the window in Brazil. That's the view of Uruguay captain Diego Lugano, handily expressed ahead of their Confederations Cup semi-final showdown in Belo Horizonte.
Only Chelsea and Liverpool can win the Premier League this season, despite Jose Mourinho's claims
In the latest edition of our favourite quotes from the sporting week, all things come to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi is given support, and Floyd Mayweather will go to places he has never been before