Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: No lack of swagger as Wallabies enter must-win

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images

The Wallabies are rarely down on confidence. Victory is high in their psyche, they believe they will send the Lions series towards a decider in Sydney.

It has been rarely different for mobs of Wallabies since they started to pick up their game and run with it in the 80's.

Robbie Deans and his selections have struggled to inflict much misery on the All Blacks since they began their 18 duels in 2008 with the ledger showing 14 All Black wins, three defeats and a stalemate.

However the Wallabies will feel and argue that two wins and a draw in the last seven tests between the countries is a sign that the gap is closing and they are on the march.

Deans has felt the withering heat the Wallabies can produce.

He was an All Black assistant in 2003 when they scorched the Wallabies 50-21 with a magnificent display of total running rugby.

Months later he and the All Blacks were holed up in Melbourne for much of the World Cup until they ventured north to Sydney for a semifinal and were well beaten 22-10.

Deans is in Melbourne once more, this time with the Wallabies who are under the cosh as they seek to square the series with the Lions and send it to a decider in Sydney.

Rather than put up the shutters as we know some sides do, the Wallabies are talking and walking with a swagger. They lost the opening test but have bounced through this week with the zip of men on a mission.

They have worn the badge of defeat well and brought all sorts of rationale about that loss and their confidence to reverse the result on Saturday in Melbourne. A sample would go something like this.

Goalkicking dramas? Yes there were a few, four from nine was not a great haul but sharpshooter Christian Leali'ifano will return this week and knock it through the sticks.

Scrum fluctuations between wobbly and steady. They would be better for that hit out though wary of referee Craig Joubert's tendency to penalize sides who went early at the engagement.

Injury dramas. Digby Ioane and Berrick Barnes had gone but Joseph Tomane and Kurtley Beale were in rocking good touch to fill those roles while the experienced maestro George Smith had boosted the squad.

Others like former Lions five eighths and Sky analyst Stuart Barnes feel the Wallabies have an advantage because they have the greatest room for improvement. The Lions could not boost their style or production much by changes in selection.

They have to replace the injured Paul O'Connell and Alex Corbisiero in the pack and those changes will not increase the forward impact.

There is some noise Dan Lydiate is being looked at on the blindside flank to deliver some more drive and power to the looseforward trio. In the backs Tommy Bowe is fit to take the wing berth he would have claimed last week had he not broken his hand.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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