CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Heat is now on Wales to emulate super Scots
9:20am Thursday 7th June 2012 in Columnists
TEST rugby appears to be going the same way as international cricket with a constant stream of action in a seemingly never-ending season.
After the capped farewell to Shane and Martyn in Wales versus the Barbarians came a midweek game crowbarred into hectic schedules.
Tuesday's encounter between Australia and Scotland appeared to be the equivalent of India against Zimbabwe ODI in the leather-on-willow world.
It seemed to be a bit of a mismatch with the side second in the world rankings taking on the Six Nations wooden spoon winners in front of a sparse crowd in rain-sodden Newcastle, New South Wales. Hardly one to set pulses racing.
Yet we got a game-changer that has heaped the pressure on Wales, who headed Down Under as the northern hemisphere's flag bearers.
Scotland won for the first time in Australia since 1982 and became the third home nations side to beat the Wallabies in the southern hemisphere in the last two years (England 2010 in Sydney, Ireland in last year's World Cup in Auckland).
Saturday was always going to be a huge Test – former Wales coach Clive Rowlands stated in yesterday's Argus that victory is essential if they are to harbour hopes of a series win – but it has got even bigger thanks to the efforts of Andy Robinson's side in the hammering rain.
As soon as Wales won the Grand Slam they were looking forward to their summer tour.
They know the importance of claiming a Tri Nations scalp and while the Aussies are a good side they have shown their susceptibility to sides from the north.
Wales have seen all three of their nearest rivals triumph against the Aussies on foreign turf.
Failure to follow in their footsteps and match the efforts of the Scots would not only be hard to take but would seriously question their right to call themselves the cream of the European crop.
Of course, caretaker coach Rob Howley and his charges are setting their sights higher than that and it shows a change of mentality that they would react with real disappointment to a 2-1 series reverse.
There is also a real public expectation for their side to take the next step and failure to do so will be a huge blow for this burgeoning squad leading into the autumn Tests and the next Six Nations.
The heat’s not only on Wales, the Aussie press is already gunning for Wallabies boss Robbie Deans following the Scottish debacle.
The New Zealander, who is hindered by a lengthy injury list, could well be given the boot if his team performs badly this year.
So much is on the line this weekend and it promises to be a cracker.
This is certainly more like a Boxing Day Test at the MCG than a Twenty20 at damp Grace Road.