Monday, July 02, 2007

After Saturday's test. Videos (the guys were just tired!)

Mixed points from Wallabies win
Jul 2, 2007

The Wallabies rediscovered one World Cup weapon but fear they may have lost another after positioning themselves to win their first Bledisloe Cup series in six years.

Australia's traditional composure and mental steel, missing in top-line tests since the 2003 World Cup, came to the fore in Saturday night's dramatic 20-15 victory over the All Blacks at the MCG.

It was the first time the Wallabies have beaten New Zealand in five matches dating back to 2004 and has them in line to wrest back the Bledisloe Cup, last held in 2002, when they meet in a likely Tri-Nations decider in Auckland on July 21.

If they win, it will be their first trans-Tasman series victory since 2001's 2-0 whitewash.

Australia's triumph, coming from 15-6 down with 17 minutes left, showed they will again be the world No.1's biggest danger in France in October.

But they are counting the cost of the battle with powerhouse No.8 Wycliff Palu, among three key men injured, facing a lengthy spell out of the game.

Palu's World Cup hopes are in limbo after a recurring nerve problem in his shoulder flared following a first-half tackle on granite-like Kiwi Jerry Collins.

He is likely to be ruled out of the rest of the Tri-Nations when MRI scans on Monday shed more light on the worrying injury.

The in-form NSW battering ram has had 10-week and four-week stints on the sidelines with the problem in the past two years and is unsure of the severity this time.

Coach John Connolly has brought fellow Waratah David Lyons into the Wallabies squad and he may start against South Africa on Saturday night in Sydney, even in spite of super-sub Stephen Hoiles' outstanding second half last night.

Connolly has also called up Queensland hooker Sean Hardman, overlooking veteran Jeremy Paul in a sign his World Cup hopes are over, with starting rake Stephen Moore (sternum) in serious doubt.

There are concerns over George Gregan (cork) after he limped off in the second half, forcing Matt Giteau to move from centre into halfback.

Gregan's possible unavailability would give Australia's selectors their biggest headache for the Springboks Test, with a decision to be made between reshuffling the backline for Giteau to wear No.9 or simply promoting Sam Cordingley.

Palu, asked about the terrible timing of his injury with the World Cup two months away, said: "It's not good".

"There's no real time line on it. It's just a week to week thing. Hopefully the strength can come back next week, I've got my fingers crossed.

"It originally feels like a dead arm but after that it gets weaker and weaker and by the end of the first half I went into the sheds and got it tested out and there was no strength in it."

For all of the jubilation and sense of achievement from the upset, the Wallabies know they must still play better to beat the All Blacks again this season.

NZ wasted a litany of try-scoring chances when they were up 15-6 and any one could have killed off the brave home side.

Australia's recent scrum revival was given a reality check with Carl Hayman lowering Matt Dunning's colours and contributing to two tight-heads.

Hayman's sin-binning in the 62nd minute was the turning point, with shock wing choice Adam Ashley-Cooper powering over and man-of-the-match Stirling Mortlock setting up the match-winner to Scott Staniforth before the prop returned.

Connolly reasoned his troops, who reverted to a more direct game after the break, had played better in two tight losses to the All Blacks last year.

But in the 13-9 defeat in Brisbane and 34-27 loss in Auckland, the Wallabies were unable to deliver the killer blow when they had the opportunity.

Last night they held on grimly, clawed their way back, struck clinically and then shut the desperate All Blacks out in the final eight minutes.

"In the last few years we've lost those tight games and it's good that we've got away with one," said lock Dan Vickerman.

"Moving forward we can take a lot of that.

"As a group of guys we're building something."
So what went wrong in Melbourne?

McCaw ready for rough ride
Jun 29, 2007

Battered All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is bracing for more special treatment at the MCG with the Wallabies vowing to take a no-holds-barred approach on Saturday night.

Rival flankers George Smith and Rocky Elsom have both said they will continue their strongarm tactics to overcome the influential McCaw in the Bledisloe Cup encounter.

Smith said the Wallabies would continue to play on the edge while Elsom said McCaw's punishment often came about due to his ability to regularly put himself in the firing line at the breakdown.

New Zealand players and fans have reacted angrily to perceived "cheap shots" by Australia and South Africa in McCaw's last two Tri-Nations Tests.

The Wallabies targeted him in their 34-27 Auckland last year where the All Blacks felt they crossed the line with a Lote Tuqiri spear tackle and a Phil Waugh forearm to the head.

The Wallabies denied the incidents were intentional and the New Zealand leader today said he accepted their word.

But he may be less forgiving if the attention intensifies in a benchmark Test for the Wallabies.

"I don't know whether Lote Tuqiri intentionally tipped me upside down," McCaw said. "He was just trying to be physical and that happened. He apologised to me afterwards so I take the man at his word.

"Last year was more physical but whether it was intentional that I don't know. I guess we'll find out on Saturday."

But McCaw denied he would take the law into his own hands if referee Marius Jonker failed to act.

"The last thing you can do is react to it because you end up costing your team or costing yourself."

"From my point of view, I'm not interested in reacting. I just want to get on and play. That's the way I operate. It's annoying at times but you just get on with it."

All Blacks centre Aaron Mauger accused the Springboks of taking cheap shots at the openside flanker last weekend.Smith, to go head-to-head with McCaw in a mouth-watering battle at the tackle area, defended the South Africans.

"I don't think McCaw was targeted by the Springboks individually but we'll definitely try and nullify his involvements in the game," he said.

McCaw admitted himself an on-the-ball flanker was always vulnerable throwing his body into breakdowns and warned Smith would receive the same attention.

"If a flanker is being influential in a game, you've got to stop it and certain teams have certain ways of doing it," he said.

"It's the same with us when you play someone like George Smith, you don't want to let him get near the ball."

"We see him as an influential player. You've got to make sure he doesn't function that well and there are always different ways of doing it.

"There's probably times when they're not (legal) but you'd like to think we can do it legally."

Meantime, veteran halfback George Gregan said he would be honoured to be offered the Wallabies captaincy again for his World Cup swansong.

Coach John Connolly is expected to give the role back to Gregan after experimenting with Stirling Mortlock and Waugh as co-captains this season.

"If you are offered that that position, it's something you don't take for granted and if it came up of course I'd look at it," he said.

Rugby World Cup Update: 01 July
Sun, 01 Jul 2007 07:28p.m.

In tonight's Rugby World Cup update Shaun Summerfield takes a look at our unfortunate semi-final record against the Wallabies in previous World Cups.

All Blacks press conference
Sun, 01 Jul 2007 02:39p.m.

Watch the press conference with All Blacks coach Graham Henry, captain Richie McCaw, backs coach Wayne Smith and assistant coach Steve Hansen
Rugby: Henry hoping loss serves as wakeup call
Sun, 01 Jul 2007 06:42p.m.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry is hoping last night's 20-15 loss to the Wallabies is the wakeup call his side needs in World Cup year. New Zealand have been talked up as the outright favourites for the tournament for a long time. Henry is hoping people will now realise that things are not so cut and dried. The team have a week off to regroup before meeting the Springboks in Christchurch. South Africa and Australia meet in Sydney on Saturday.

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