Shaun Edwards sets defensive target
8:42pm Friday 15th June 2012 in National Rugby
SHAUN Edwards has set the Welsh side a target of restricting Australia to fewer than 18 points in order to stay in the three-match series by squaring things up in Melbourne's Etihad Stadium tomorrow.
The Wallabies scored three tries - as many as Wales had conceded in five games in their Grand Slam campaign - in their 27-19 win in the first Test in Brisbane and defence coach Edwards wants to cut back on the points his team conceded last weekend.
"We are playing against a Tri Nations team and in the professional era we have yet to beat a Tri Nations team away from home,’’ said Edwards.
"So, if you look at the history of it, it is obviously a huge challenge, but we are just looking at the here and now and the things we have to change and improve on from last week.
"We are going to get up to the pace of the game a bit more. Sam Warburton will have a little bit more confidence under his belt having played his first game in 11 weeks and it should be a little bit cooler in Melbourne than it was in Brisbane.
"It is difficult to keep a Tri Nations team to less than 20 points, but if we can keep them between 15-18 we will be in with a chance of winning the game.’’ Caretaker coach Rob Howley has made four changes to his side from the first Test, bringing in 181 caps into the pack in the shape of Lions Test stars Matthew Rees, Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones, while Australia have given a vote of confidence to the team that triumphed last weekend.
"One of the things we have to improve on is our field position and we have to win the collisions in and around the breakdown area, which we had trouble in doing in the first half last week,’’ admitted Edwards.
"We spent between 6-7 minutes in our own 22 and only 2.5 in theirs. Against a team as good as Australia in offence you don't want to be chalking up statistics like that.
"It was a pretty special performance from Will Genia last week and, hopefully, we will do a better job on him this week. I do feel we need to defend stronger around the rucks and we can't allow him to rule the roost as he did last week.
"I expect the referee to be a little bit more vigilant about the tackler rolling away at the breakdown this week. Some of the breakdown skills Australia showed last week were very good, but there were other times when some of their players could have been penalised for exiting the ruck on the wrong side.’’ Howley said his team had "missed out on a golden opportunity’’ in last week's defeat, but far from being down about it, Edwards says the players cannot wait to have another crack at the Australians.
"There is no problem in getting the players up for this game. The players are very, very motivated for this weekend and some of them feel they can play better than they did last week,’’ said Edwards.
"At 20-19 in Brisbane we had a 5-2 overlap and had we scored then the result could have been different. That is what Test football is all about - taking your chances.
"We made six line breaks and scored once, while they made six and scored three times. It is something we have to change around.
"We created a lot of chances and hopefully we will do the same this week.’’
Australia: Adam Ashley Cooper (Waratahs); Cooper Vuna (Melbourne Rebels), Rob Horne (Waratahs), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); Berrick Barnes (Waratahs), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (Waratahs), Tatafu Polota Nau (Waratahs), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds), David Pocock (Western Force), Wycliff Palu (Waratahs) Replacements: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Dave Dennis (Waratahs), Michael Hooper (Brumbies), Nic White (Brumbies), Anthony Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Ryan Jones (Ospreys) Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Scott Williams (Scarlets)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)