Wales' 'invaluable' weapon to counter 'Pooper' combination
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Wales are steeling themselves to counter the threat of Australia’s stand-out loose-ball poachers Michael Hooper and David Pocock, forwards coach Robin McBryde said Thursday.
The Welsh head into their World Cup Pool D showdown with Australia on Sunday knowing that whoever comes out victorious will take a giant leap towards topping the group.
In a bid to win what promises to be a titanic battle of the loose, Wales will likely call on the experienced Justin Tipuric and No.8 Josh Navidi to counter the so-called ‘Pooper’ combination for the Wallabies.
“They’ve got a very competitive six and seven, and the hooker as well is a threat over the ball,” McBryde warned.
“If we’re in any way slow to get to that breakdown, they’re very big men to try to move so we have to make sure there’s no separation between ball carrier and our first arrivals.”
McBryde added that it was “invaluable” to be able to call on someone like openside flank Tipuric, who shone in a try-scoring opening performance against Georgia, a game Wales won 43-14.
How good was @WelshRugbyUnion ‘s Justin Tipuric yesterday?
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“Justin brings that air of calmness. He doesn’t say a lot but when he speaks it carries a lot of weight,” he said.
“I know he didn’t get man-of-the-match award for the Georgia game, but in my view he deserved it because with and without the ball I thought the decision-making he did… was very good.
“To have someone like Justin with the experience he’s got, encouraging him to share that with the group this week, it’s just great really and makes my role as a coach much easier.”
‘Far greater’ threat
McBryde acknowledged that the Wallabies, who beat Fiji 39-21 in their opener, offered a “far greater” threat than Georgia.
“It means we’ll have to be at our best,” the former Wales hooker said.
Wales bucked a losing streak of 13 matches against the Wallabies in November, scrapping to a dour home 9-6 win in Cardiff.
But McBryde put little stock on that result.
“We know we can beat them but other than that this is a completely different tournament, different game,” he said.
“The autumn [November] internationals are very much a one-off. We’ll take heart from the fact we know we can beat them, but it’s different circumstances, there’s a lot more at stake.
“It’s going to be a good battle!”
Fiji suffered a shock 30-27 defeat by minnows Uruguay on Wednesday, potentially turning the Wales clash with Australia into a straight shoot-out for the top two pool spots.
“It does not change our mindset at all,” McBryde insisted in the wake of that Fiji loss to the south Americans.
“We are not looking further than the next game and if we can beat Australia it puts us in a really healthy place.”
Wales will play Fiji in Oita on October 9, McBryde stressing that it was “going to be big regardless of what has gone on”.
“We know they are a dangerous team on their day and will be hurting from that defeat so if anything it will make them more dangerous.”
McBryde confirmed that the whole squad took part in training, notably centre Hadleigh Parkes (hand fracture), hooker Ken Owens (knee) and locks Adam Beard (recovering from an appendectomy).
Also attending training was Bradley Davies, the replacement for Cory Hill who will miss the World Cup after failing to recover from a leg injury.
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