Tuesday’s rugby news has a refreshed Wallabies side, Welsh fitness updates, mind games from coaches and McCaw praising his team’s self-belief.
Return of ‘refreshed’ Wallabies
Former Wallabies captain James Horwill has said that the controversial suspension of six players for drinking ‘inappropriate’ levels in the lead up to the Ireland match will have a positive effect on the team’s performance against Wales. Having served their one match ban against Scotland, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Liam Gill are all available for Saturday’s match.
Horwill believes that the health of the returning players will be a major boost to the team, asserting, ‘That is a silver lining if you want to look at it that way, that guys have had a chance to freshen up, because we’ll need their energy and enthusiasm this week.’
Cuthbert to face Wallabies
Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert could make a shock return against Australia, having recovered well from an ankle injury suffered while playing for the Cardiff Blues last month. The Lions winger has been training with Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards, who is encouraged with Cuthbert’s fitness. Meanwhile, fellow wing George North has confirmed his release from Aviva Premiership Club Northampton, allowing him to play the match outside of the IRB’s autumn Test window.
Wales have also added Osprey’s lock James King in response to the unavailability of Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris. Davies has recently undergone shoulder surgery while Charteris has not been released by his club Perpignan. Wales coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his team to face the Wallabies on Thursday.
Coaches stress the importance of Cardiff match
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards has stressed the psychological importance of Saturday’s match as the two teams’ final meeting between facing off in the 2015 World Cup group of death, which also includes England. ‘We have to get that bit of confidence going into Rugby World Cup by not only competing ferociously with the former Tri-Nations teams, but getting one up on them,’ Edwards said, whose side are searching for their second win from 23 recent attempts against SANZAR teams.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie shared this concern, saying, ‘You’re imposing a playing style but also, I guess, the psychology of the circumstances.’ McKenzie also emphasised that his team would not be affected by the recent success of the Lions, which included 10 Welsh players in the disappointing third Test, saying that the Welsh national team was a completely different animal.
McCaw praises All Black attitude
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has reflected on the team’s record-breaking year, putting their unbeaten record down to ‘self-belief’. New Zealand came back from a seemingly impossible position, down 19-0 to Ireland, with McCaw stating that he learned a sense of resilience at Canturbery under skipper Todd Blackadder. ‘We had 15 guys out there believing till the end that day and we had the same against South Africa and Ireland.’
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen concurred with his captain, saying, ‘If you have the composure and the mental fortitude you can redress any deficit.’ With the release of the IRB rankings, New Zealand have unsurprisingly finished at number 1, while the Wallabies have regained third place after their win against Scotland.