No easy games as Wallabies prepare for Italy
SPOTLIGHT: With an unbeaten record that stretches 18 Tests, the Wallabies have identified their clash with Italy in Florence this weekend as a dangerous game.
The Australians are coming off a spirited one-point loss to Six Nations champions France but too often this year have they backed up their best performance with their worst.
They haven’t tasted back-to-back victories since winning five straight last year and they haven’t won more than one Test on a European tour since 2016.
The Wallabies have never lost to world No.12 Italy, who they last played in 2018, but wing Tom Wright said they needed to make sure they approached the match with the same intent as they did against the heavyweight French.
“The main messaging is around that we respect Italy and keep out the outside noise around what could be perceived as an easy game for us on this tour, or the easiest,” Wright told reporters.
“It’s about making sure that we as a squad front up this week – it’s very easy to get up when you’re playing France or Ireland, the top two teams in the world, so we need to make sure we put the same emphasis on playing well and preparing the same way against Italy.”
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Coach Dave Rennie will name his team on Thursday with many Wallabies fans eager to see Jock Campbell, who made his starting debut against France in Paris, get another start.
Wright admitted the Wallabies fullback role had been a “merry-go-round” with no player able to nail the spot ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
He felt Reds star Campbell, a late Test bloomer at 27, brought a lot of great qualities to the position.
“It’s been well-publicised around how underrated he’s [Campbell] been and he’s waited for his opportunity for a really long time,” Wright said.
“To see him front up on one of biggest stages in the world, he didn’t shy away from the occasion, executing our game plan.
“There’s been a merry-go-round of guys go through there [fullback], me included, and Jock is cool, calm and collected and extremely well-liked by the group.
“You saw in his performance, not a lot rattles him.”
Campbell and Wright both fell off tackles on the French wing Damien Penaud as he scored the match-winning try.
Wright said he had “owned” the defensive error while the team review revealed plenty of positives to take from the Paris match.
“It sucked for the group, sucked for me and Jock but I’ve just got to own that moment,” Wright said.
“The team review, we didn’t just look at the last try and think how shit was that game, we looked at the first 75-odd minutes and what we did really well.
“We know Italy are going to be no slouch this weekend, especially at home and it’s a new environment for a lot of guys.
“It’s certainly been a focus point for us, making sure that we show up, especially coming after a performance that we were proud of.”