Wales v Australia: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland warns: These Aussies are different


Rugby Union Correspondent

Decision making in rugby is not always of the highest order: as the pathetic failure of leadership at Heineken Cup level demonstrates all too painfully, it is only on an unusually good day that some of those running the sport aspire to mediocrity. Yet Warren Gatland, who masterminded the British and Irish Lions victory in Australia last summer, believes the new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie made an inspired and brave call in throwing the disciplinary book at 15 members of his tour squad last week.

“Ewen is trying to put his mark on the Australian team and I respect him for that,” said Gatland, now back in the day job with Wales and planning for this weekend’s meeting between the two countries in Cardiff – the final international fling of a long and intense autumn programme. “Discipline is a massive factor. I applaud Ewen for doing what he did.”

What Ewen did was dramatic, to say the least: he slapped a one-match ban on half a dozen front-line players, including the long-serving wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, for hitting the bar late at night during preparations for last weekend’s Test in Ireland, and issued formal warnings to nine others. He then went public with a detailed explanation of his actions, during which little was left unsaid. If the Wallabies do not know the mind of their coach now, they must be seriously thick.

It is a matter of record that the Lions – some of them, at least – hit the sauce with a vengeance between the Melbourne Test at the end of June and the Sydney Test a week later, but they had the blessing of a tour management keen to release some tension as a bitterly fought series built to a climax. In Ireland, the Wallaby culprits took it upon themselves to act outside team protocols and, by extension, to question McKenzie’s authority. The answer they received from the World Cup-winning prop was very loud and clear.

Saturday evening’s curtain-down contest at the Millennium Stadium should prove worthy of its stand-alone status. Gatland, sick to the back teeth of leaks from the team room, named his side yesterday, 48 hours earlier than expected, and included no fewer than 11 Lions tourists. One of them, the wing Alex Cuthbert, was picked after making a surprisingly rapid recovery from an injury that had threatened to wreck his autumn entirely.

“I took a lot from the summer,” said the 23-year-old Cardiff Blues back, who scored a fine try on his Lions Test debut in the Brisbane Test before losing his place to the Irish wing Tommy Bowe. “I think I grew up during that trip and I want to prove it by putting on a performance for myself, my family and my supporters this weekend against one of the world’s best teams. All I’m thinking about is getting back out there.

“The Brisbane game was the first time I’d beaten a major southern-hemisphere side and to score as well… I was pretty happy with that. I’ve scored on a regular basis for Wales too, so my confidence is high. When my injury was diagnosed [a hairline fracture of his ankle during a Heineken Cup game in October] it seemed I had no chance of playing in this series. But I’m back two weeks ahead of schedule and the adrenaline is pumping.”

Gatland has been bombarded with questions about the Lions victory and its relevance to this weekend’s fixture, but as he considers the summer’s events to be wholly irrelevant, there are no parallels to be drawn. “Australia are a completely different side now,” the coach argued. He was more interested in discussing his own selection, in which Dan Biggar of Ospreys features at outside-half ahead of his Scarlets rival Rhys Priestland. “It was a tight decision,” Gatland acknowledged. “Both players have their strengths, but I’ve gone for the No 10 in form – the man with a little more confidence.”

Apart from centre, where Owen Williams and his namesake Scott will link up in the absence of Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts, and at tight-head prop, where Rhodri Jones fills in for the stricken Adam Jones, the Welsh will be at something close to full strength. Always assuming no one heads for the pub.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor