Jenkins: Wales have 'no excuses' for failure to win in Australia


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The Independent Online

For a Wales coach to say his team will have "no excuses" if they fail to win a Test in Australia for the first time in 25 years shows how parameters of world rugby have shifted.

Where hapless tourists of old arrived primed for a 50- or 60-point shunting or two and a trip to the beach, the current Wales team take the field in Brisbane this morning as World Cup semi-finalists and Grand Slam champions, with a thoroughly professional attitude and something approaching genuine strength in depth, capable of absorbing a number of injured absentees. Plus, Australia lost at home to Scotland this week.

Neil Jenkins – for it was he, the points-record-setting fly-half-cum-full-back now skills coach under Rob Howley in the injury-enforced absence of Warren Gatland – said: "The players have had a good week to prepare and we are in pretty good shape. There are no excuses. The feeling I get is that everyone is looking forward to it. We did pretty well at the World Cup, and very well in winning the Grand Slam, but this is the next step for any side, winning in the southern hemisphere. It is an opportunity for us, but it isn't won on paper. We have to take our chances and limit theirs."

Wales lost the 2011 World Cup third v fourth play-off to Australia, in Auckland in November, and then a one-off Test in Cardiff in December. They have not beaten the Wallabies in the southern hemisphere since 1987, when they won the first World Cup play-off, 22-21. That was in Rotorua, New Zealand; Wales's last win over the Wallabies in Australia was in Sydney, by 19-16, in June 1969.

The last time Wales were in Brisbane, in 2007, they lost 31-0. In 1996, they lost 56-25 and in 1991 they suffered a then record defeat, 63-6.

Jenkins said: "We know what Saturday holds. But we have got to back ourselves because we believe we have a pretty good side. We are expecting Australia to come out all guns firing, especially after their very disappointing result against Scotland. I'm just hoping we can match them in that way.

"They are certainly the second-best team in the world and I think they would push the All Blacks. It would be nice to get off to a winning start in the series because that always puts pressure on the opposition. They are a good side that will be hurting from Tuesday.

"We may be in a different position than we have been for a long time, but that is irrelevant – we've still got to turn up and play well."

Wales will field a team made up of players who were sent out early, in order to acclimatise. Eleven of the team that won the Grand Slam match against France will start the game.