Wales 24 Australia 22: Dragons' attention to detail drives Jones to distraction

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The Independent Online

Amid all the wild post-match celebrations following this thrilling match came a prediction that stretched credibility.

"Wales can win the 2007 Rugby World Cup." If a Welshman had said it, he would have been labelled mad, drunk or caught up in the hype and hysteria after the Dragons recorded their first win over the Wallabies on home soil since 1981. But the words were not uttered by a Welshman. The statement was made by a New Zealander, Andrew Hore, Wales' departing conditioning coach.

However, superb as the Welsh performance was, their coach Mike Ruddock was not allowing himself to be swept away. All he would concede was: "It's a really big result for us to take into the Six Nations."

Their first game is a big one - probably the biggest - against England at Twickenham. Ruddock was certainly heartened by this stirring display, which had the crowd on its feet and the Australians on the back foot. Whenever the Wallabies did get going the Welsh defended heroically.

Ruddock was mightily pleased with his team's fitness and stamina - credit to Hore for that - and Wales never let up in a match played at a ferocious pace, with barely a water break to be had.

There was not even a stoppage when the prop Adam Jones got to grips with an opponent in the middle of the field and was then joined by a second Wallaby - the centre Morgan Turinui - who left the defensive line and attempted to break up the tussle.

All his intervention did was leave a large hole which was exploited by Shane Williams and Gareth Thomas, who conjured up Wales' second try. That incident drove Australia's coach Eddie Jones to fling his two-way radio unit to the ground in anger.

"That is what is costing us games - it's also cost me a radio," Jones said. "That lack of awareness of critical situations. As absurd as it seems, it is the small things like that which are killing us." And probably putting the boot into Jones' future, as well as that of his captain George Gregan. It was the latter's 50th match as captain and his 118th cap, but although he has a Super 14 commitment for the next southern season he is unlikely to continue his Test career.

The Australian Rugby Union has launched a review of the Wallabies' disastrous tour, and some suggest that a queue of people is eager to take over from Jones. "The results clearly don't measure up to the goals that were set before the tour," said the ARU's Gary Flowers. "This review will begin immediately."

One of those in waiting is the Wales skills coach Scott Johnson. The Australian has already announced that he will leave Wales; the only question is when. Queensland are favourites to secure his signature but his achievements with Wales and his popularity with the players might suggest he would have the drop on his rivals for the national job, who include the former All Black coach John Mitchell, Ewan McKenzie and Bath's Michael Foley and John Connolly.

"I am not concerned what this result means for me," Jones said. "People are going to make decisions. It is out of my control. I just coach." He was more at pains to accentuate the positives of the tour, which included three players trying out new positions. According to Jones they all acquitted themselves well.

"Lote Tuqiri has looked comfortable moving from the wing to outside-centre. And he has had only a handful of Tests since switching from league to union. George Smith settled in at No 8 and I think Mat Rogers is going to become a very handy Test fly-half."

Right now, though, he needs a scrummage, and Jones admitted that there is a lot of hard work ahead if the Wallabies are to rediscover those dark arts after watching Wales dominate up front. But while the home forwards were magnificent, Jones highlighted aspects of the back play that were not so great. "We were never stretched in defence," he said. "They score most of their tries from turnovers and free-kicks."

The immediate future had looked bleak for Wales after poor performances in their previous autumn Tests. This result has gone some way to alleviating those fears. There are grounds for optimism, but Wales need to analyse Jones' remarks about the backs' inability to breach the opposition line often enough. That will be an imperative against the likes of England and France.

Wales: Tries Penalty, S Williams; Conversion S Jones; Penalties S Jones 4. Australia: Tries Tuqiri, Sharpe, Latham; Conversions Rogers 2; Penalty Rogers.

Wales: G Thomas (Toulouse); D James, M Watkins (both Llanelli Scarlets), S Parker, S Williams (both Ospreys); S Jones (Clermont Auvergne), G Cooper (Newport-Gwent Dragons); D Jones (Ospreys), R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), C Horsman (Worcester), I Gough (N-G Dragons), R Sidoli (Cardiff Blues), C Charvis (Newcastle), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), M Owen (N-G Dragons). Replacements: M Davies (Gloucester) for R Thomas 36-40; A Jones (Ospreys) for Horsman, 51; C Sweeney (N-G Dragons) for S Jones, 80.

Australia: C Latham (Queensland); M Gerrard (ACT), L Tuqiri, M Turinui (both New South Wales), D Mitchell (Queensland); M Rogers (NSW) G Gregan (ACT, capt); M Dunning (NSW), B Cannon, D Fitter (both Western Australia), H McMeniman (Queensland), N Sharpe (WA), J Roe (Queensland), P Waugh (NSW), G Smith (ACT). Replacements: A Baxter (NSW) for Fitter, 53; M Chisholm (ACT) for McMeniman, 74; C Whitaker (NSW) for Gregan, 59; W Sailor (NSW) for Gerrard, 66.

Referee: T Spreadbury (England).

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