Rugby Union: Australians anxious to make amends

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AS ONLY the All Blacks and England have prevailed against the French at Parc des Princes in the past 18 years, the Wallabies, who play there in this afternoon's second Test, could be excused for feeling the weight of history. They have never won a series in France and are not about to.

Last Saturday in Bordeaux, Australia more or less gave it away. Their magnificent forwards exploded the fallacy about gigantism in rugby by outplaying the enormous French pack. But the team as a whole failed where they have been so strong during their years of predominance, in the taking of chances.

This would be a worrying trend for Bob Dwyer, the Wallabies coach, if it were to continue. It has not been a great year for the World Cup holders - if only because Australia lost the Bledisloe Cup so conclusively to New Zealand, a disappointment that outweighed even the 2-1 series victory over the still- lumbering Springboks.

Then there was last Saturday, which can be dismissed as a travesty or an aberration only if the same does not happen today. 'Perhaps we overplayed some things in the first Test,' Dwyer said yesterday. 'We must remember you don't get that many chances at this level.'

This is where New Zealand, on tour in the UK, have been a contrast, eking out desperate victories by the simple expedient of taking everything on offer. Had they not, they would already have lost to the Midlands, South-West and North. Having said that, the Wallabies' provincial record in France has been the best any Australia team has enjoyed.

If the Australians are in an in-between phase - which is how they like to portray it - they have at least chosen the best time, in between times, just as they did before the last World Cup. We may not have realised at the time, but when they were last in France, in the autumn of 1989, that was a team embarking before our eyes on their way to the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Whether 'in between' now means on the way up or down is a question the matches last Saturday and today are supposed to answer. What is well remembered about '89 is that Australia secured victory in a blaze of tries in Strasbourg before losing the second Test in Lille.

So the parallel between then and now is not quite exact. Then, Dwyer plucked two teenagers out of the air. On Tim Horan and Jason Little, plus one or two others, Dwyer built the team who won the 1991 World Cup. The nonpareil centre pair are still only 23 and, though there is no longer a Nick Farr- Jones, Lynagh and Campese play on.

Whether the likes of Matthew Burke and Ilie Tabua, both out of today's Test, will ultimately lead the new generation to further glories at the World Cup in South Africa in 1995 is a fascinating imponderable. Less imponderable is what will happen if Rod McCall and Garrick Morgan win as much line-

out possession in Paris as in Bordeaux.

Because surely the Wallabies will not let it go to waste again. Or, as Pierre Berbizier, France's coach, put it yesterday: 'If we do not dominate the line-out, we will not be able to win.' Not for a second time, anyway.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); P Bernat- Salles (Pau), P Sella (Agen), T Lacroix (Dax), P Saint-Andre (Montferrand); A Penaud (Brive), A Hueber (Toulon); L Armary (Lourdes), J-M Gonzalez (Bayonne), L Seigne (Merignac), O Merle (Grenoble), O Roumat (Dax, capt), P Benetton (Agen), M Cecillon (Bourgoin), A Benazzi (Agen).

AUSTRALIA: M Roebuck (New South Wales); D Smith, T Horan, J Little (Queensland), D Campese (NSW); M Lynagh (capt), P Slattery (Queensland); A Daly, P Kearns, E McKenzie (NSW), R McCall, G Morgan (Queensland), M Brial, T Gavin (NSW), D Wilson (Queensland).

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand).