Robbie Deans, the under-fire Australia coach, yesterday promised a fast and open game when his redemption-seeking side take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff tomorrow. And that will be a blessed relief to all those who have despaired at an autumn series of Tests which have so far been offensively slow and defensively closed.
"It will be a very good contest – there will a lot of movement and both teams will be constructive," said the New Zealander. "Both sides like to use the ball and both like to involve their outside backs. We're certainly expecting Wales to play positively and we want to go home with a good performance under our belt. To achieve that we will have to play, we will have to involve everyone and we will not be able to be conservative."
Deans has come under ferocious criticism in Australia after last Saturday's 9-8 surprise defeat at Murrayfield – the first time they had lost to Scotland since 1982. He is accused of turning the Wallabies into a kicking team and taking away their natural flair. The World Cup winning coach, Bob Dwyer, was especially pessimistic. "I dread this game: Wales can actually play," he said. "Our game has gone to pieces. I'm not sure if we kick so much because our offence is so bad, or if our offence is so bad because we kick so much."
For his part Deans shrugged off the criticism, calling it "part of the territory". "The key is not to go belly up," he said. "And I won't be doing that."
Nevertheless, Deans did stress the importance of this match – and gaining revenge for last year's 21-18 defeat in Cardiff – at the end of a year during which they have won only five out of 12 Tests. "We are fortunate we have another opportunity, so that we can attempt to finish this tour and year on a positive note," he said. Deans was assisted in this regard by the return of Digby Ioane, one of three changes to the team announced yesterday. Ioane, the outside centre who missed last Saturday with a shoulder injury, will be critical in the plan to stop the supply-line to Shane Williams, the wing who reached 50 Test tries with his double against Argentina.
Deans did not hesitate in picking out the little man as the chief danger. "Shane is back in shape and playing good rugby," he said. "He's a special player who likes to get his hands on the ball and if he is able to do that we will have to deal with it."
Meanwhile, John Smit, the Springboks' captain, has been returned to his normal position of hooker for their Test with Ireland on Sunday. Smit's shortcomings as a tighthead have been exposed on this tour. It is one of six changes made by the coach, Peter de Villiers. All eyes, particularly those of Luke Fitzgerald, will be focused on Schalk Burger, the flanker who received an eight-week ban for gouging the Ireland winger during the summer's British and Irish Lions tour.
Australia team to play Wales Millennium Stadium tomorrow (5.15): A Ashley-Cooper; P Hynes, D Ioane, Q Cooper, D Mitchell; M Giteau, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, J Horwill, D Mumm, R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, W Palu. Replacements: T Polota Nau, M Dunning, M Chisholm, G Smith, L Burgess, J O'Connor, K Beale.