Hero of '87 tips Wales to turn tide

FLASHBACK: Paul Thorburn in his Wales heyday

FLASHBACK: Paul Thorburn in his Wales heyday

First published in Latest Rugby South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

WALES rugby hero Paul Thorburn is urging Wales to finally take a southern hemisphere scalp when they face Australia in tomorrow’s final Test in the three-match series.

Robert Howley’s men have came agonisingly close to beating the Wallabies twice but have lost the series 2-0 to an under-par Australia.

It remains to be seen if Wales can pick themselves up after last weekend’s devastating 25-23 defeat in the dying seconds.

Thorburn, who knows all about beating the Wallabies in the southern hemisphere, believes they can.

It’s nearly 25 years to the day when the ex-Neath full back’s towering touchline conversion of Adrian Hadley’s last-gasp try bisected the uprights to give Wales a famous 22-21 win over Australia.

That victory on New Zealand soil at Rotorua earned Wales third place at 1987’s inaugural World Cup – a feat they have yet to better.

It is also the last time Wales have beaten one of the Tri Nations superpowers in the southern hemisphere.

Thorburn thinks Wales can end a quarter of a century of serious hurt in Sydney this weekend.

“I am optimistic – last weekend showed that the northern sides generally have closed the gap on the southern teams a heck of lot,” he said.

“Ireland were unlucky not to beat New Zealand, while the same can be said of Wales against Australia.

“These days, our players are fitter and last the pace better in matches.

“Wins in the south against the Tri Nations teams do not come along often for Wales.

“Before we succeeded in 1987 we had to go back to 1969 for our previous win over one of them away from Cardiff, these are rare events so any chance that comes along has to be taken.

“I’m sure the Wales coaches will be telling the players as much for tomorrow’s game.

“They have come close on this trip. Now it is a question of going that bit further.”

Thorburn, who scored 304 points for Wales in his 37 caps between 1985 and 1991, is a big fan of current full back Leigh Halfpenny.

“There were some outstanding individual displays and I certainly like watching Halfpenny play,” he said.

“He’s so composed with his goal-kicking and he has courage under the high ball.

“The challenge now is to give him more opportunities with ball in hand.”

But Thorburn, who also played for Ebbw Vale, warns Wales to keep Kurtley Beale quiet, Halfpenny’s opposite number returning after a shoulder injury.

“I think Wales need to be careful with their kicking out of hand because they’ve chosen Beale and he’s a tremendous attacker,” he said.

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