Rugby: Wallabies face Wales but plan for All Blacks

Wales' Scott Williams, center, wraps up Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper, right, and Digby Ioane. Photo / AP.
Wales' Scott Williams, center, wraps up Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper, right, and Digby Ioane. Photo / AP.

The Wallabies face daunting back-to-back games against the All Blacks to open the Rugby Championship in August, but star winger Adam Ashley-Cooper says Australia will thrive on an opportunity to end a decade of Bledisloe Cup pain in seven days.

Australia are 2-0 up against Wales and determined to complete a clean-sweep of their current series tonight at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Ashley-Cooper believes the skill involved in dominating a team over a short space of time can lay solid foundations for a one-week ambush of World Cup-winners New Zealand, including a crunch trip to their Eden Park graveyard.

Australia haven't won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002 and last year's loss in the World Cup semifinal extended their Eden Park drought against the All Blacks to 26 years.

The first Rugby Championship, incorporating Argentina, starts on August 18 with Australia opening against New Zealand in Sydney before the return fixture is played in Auckland on the following Saturday.

The third Bledisloe match is not until October 20, but the Wallabies are determined to break the curse in one swoop and claim No 1 world status in the process.

"With two games [in a row] it's a really good opportunity to wrap up the Bledisloe," said Ashley-Cooper.

"We haven't held that trophy in a long, long time.

"We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves but a win this weekend is really important to looking down the track for the All Blacks tests.

"We respect them and consider them the No 1 team in the world - they showed that last year in the World Cup.

"We're well aware we're sitting at No 2 but we want to be at No.1 ... and to do that we've got to win those two tests.

"A good performance this week will leave us on a really good note ... it'll be good for confidence and belief."

In another positive sign for the Wallabies looking ahead to the Rugby Championship, Drew Mitchell joined the squad for training this week.

The versatile outside back has played two matches for NSW in his return from an ankle injury, and is eyeing a test recall in August.

Mitchell has spoken to coach Robbie Deans and is concentrating on building up his workload so he doesn't suffer a repeat of last year's World Cup, when he broke down in his return from time on the sidelines.

The Waratahs flyer said that after last year's disappointment, the Wallabies had narrowed down where they must improve to overcome the All Blacks in big games.

"I think the key to the All Blacks and their success is in tight games," said Mitchell.

"They seem to find a way to get out of it, and we saw that against Ireland last week as well and in the World Cup final against France.

"They have a calmness about the way they play and a confidence that if they stick to what they're doing they'll come through with the result.

"That's probably the difference."

Australia: Kurtley Beale, A. Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe,
Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, S. Higginbotham,
Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Rob Simmons, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, N White, A Fainga'a.


Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Ashley Beck, George North,
Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (c), Dan Lydiate,
Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins.
Reserves: Ken Owens, Paul James, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Scott Williams.


- AAP

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