British and Irish Lions 2013: Lions' dragons must fire against Australia, warns Leigh Halfpenny

Full-back is wary that Welsh contingent have lost last seven matches against Wallabies

It was in the familiar surrounds of the Vale of Glamorgan that Warren Gatland conducted his first training session as coach of the British and Irish Lions. Among the 22 players under his instruction were all 15 of the Welsh contingent, as well as coaches plucked from his own staff in Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins.

This is a squad made in Wales. It is now being trained in Wales by the man who turned the country into European rugby's force of the moment. There is one initial nagging doubt about the dyed-red master plan that Gatland began to outline to his players at the start of a week in Wales, followed by a week in Ireland and the entire squad's – the remainder are still on club duty in England and Ireland – departure for Hong Kong at the end of the month. It is simply that Wales have lost their last seven matches against Australia, this summer's opponents for the Lions' three-Test tour.

Last summer, Wales departed for Australia as Grand Slam champions and were beaten in all three Tests. Last autumn, Australia came to the Millennium Stadium and won. And Gatland has already observed, having watched the Melbourne Reds play recently, that southern hemisphere hosts, domestic and international, have a tendency to raise their games in a Lions year.

"It's a very fast game down there, very intense from the off," said Leigh Halfpenny, the Wales full-back and a favourite to start the opening Test in Brisbane on 22 June. "That's what we found from the summer, the intensity is really high and the games are really fast. The speed of the game was higher. It felt like it was end to end, back and forth, back and forth."

The solace for Gatland, who was not at the helm for Wales' tour after breaking his ankles, is to be found in the scorelines; recent matches between them have been painfully close. Wales have lost the last three by two, one and two points respectively. In the autumn it was a last-minute try from Kurtley Beale, in the third Test in Sydney it finished 20-19 and in the previous game in Melbourne Mike Harris settled it in Australia's favour with the last kick of the match.

"The last one in the autumn was pretty sickening," said Mike Phillips, whose record against Australia is played nine, lost nine. "We switched off in the last 30 seconds and that's what international rugby is all about. You have to remain focused for 80-plus minutes. They are a dangerous side with skilful players, forwards who can offload and create, and backs who can cut lines and makes holes from nothing. They are one of the most dangerous sides in the world."

Add the cream of the rest of the home nations to the outstanding side among them and that should be enough to tilt the balance – so the plan goes.

"In Test rugby you only get a couple of opportunities, especially with a side like Australia," said Halfpenny, whose 74 points in the Six Nations made him player of the tournament. "We have to take them in order to be successful. International rugby is about small margins.

"We were hugely disappointed to come away with a 3-0 loss. We came off the pitch, especially in the last two, and felt we should have won. There is frustration there that we didn't win but we can take confidence that we could have won. It's about making sure we cross that finish line and turn narrow leads into victory.

"We are familiar with a lot of the coaches and the players but for us now it is not just about Wales. It is about Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland. We are working together for one cause, making sure this badge is successful in Australia."

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine