Australia coach Robbie Deans says Wales’ determination to make a statement by securing at least one victory on their tour makes today’s final match of the three-game rug by union Test series anything but a dead rubber.
Australia have already won the series courtesy of a 27-19 win in Brisbane and a last-gasp 25-23 victory in Melbourne last week, in two games of the highest quality between two of international rugby’s younger sides.
Although the last four Tests between the two sides going back to last year’s World Cup have been decided by an accumulative 19 points, Six Nations champions Wales have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1969.
“This will be a gem of a game in every way,” Deans said yesterday. “It will have elements of a lot of physicality in it, because you have one side wanting to make a statement before they leave.”
“They know they are on vacation [afterwards], so they are going to spare nothing. They’re going to leave nothing in the tank, they are going to look to empty the tank and walk away with their heads held high,” Deans said.
“We are aware of that and it’s also our last outing for a month, and we want to walk away with our heads held high and not looking over our shoulders at a job half done,” he added.
Deans said the Wallabies had an additional incentive in the defense of their second place in the International Rugby Board rankings, which help decide the seedings for the 2015 World Cup.
“You’ve got to take pride in what you do,” Deans added. “And we’ve got a group here that have shown that they’ve started to do that.”
“We’re very keen to finish this series on a good note for two reasons ... it’s relevant for the IRB standings, but more importantly, it’s our last fixture before we go into two matches against the All Blacks at the start of the Rugby Championship,” he said.
The Test will be the first at the 45,000-seater Sydney Football Stadium in 14 years and the afternoon kickoff is unusual for the southern hemisphere elite, who play almost all Super Rugby matches and most Tests under floodlights.
“The boys are really excited, it’s a sellout crowd on a Saturday afternoon and that in itself is special,” Australia skipper David Pocock said.
“We got out of the last game by the skin of our teeth and that’s definitely not a performance we want to reproduce,” Pocock added.
Prop Sekope Kepu did not train because of illness on Thursday, with Ben Alexander replacing him in the front row for the session and James Slipper on standby to join the replacements.
A Wallabies spokesman said Kepu would be training yesterday and was confident he would be good to go for today’s match.