June International Tours

Wales eager for return in Brisbane

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Spurred by negativity and ridicule over their under-strength team, Wales will have plenty of motivation against the Wallabies for next weekend’s second Test after being cruelly denied in the opening game, coach Gareth Jenkins said on Sunday.

Australia wriggled home with a winning try after the full-time siren to pip a gallant Wales 29-23 in Sydney on Saturday.

The Wallabies — who face Wales in Cardiff in their pool at the World Cup in September — only avoided an embarrassing home defeat when replacement forward Stephen Hoiles finished off a passing rush to dive over in the corner.

The Welsh, after chasing the ball for long periods, were on the brink of a famous victory, which would have been their first in Australia in almost 40 years, before a lack of composure and an inability to run down the clock cost them.

“We’ve been competitive, we were ridiculed for the team we brought here and I think we’ve justified our selection and our
group of players here,” Jenkins said.

“We’ve been very competitive in a game that went down to the last 50 seconds.

“We’re bitterly disappointed, but we’ll use this frustration and emotion now to actually drive us to next week’s Test match.”

The World Cup rivals shape up again at Brisbane next Saturday.

Wales have been denigrated in the Australian media for leaving 17 leading players behind for conditioning ahead of the World Cup, but Jenkins was pleased with the character his team showed against the error-prone Wallabies.

Nevertheless, Wales have now won only four of their last 17 internationals, with two draws, and have been beaten in all their last eight away Tests.

The two nations are in the same pool at the World Cup and their showdown at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on September 15 is expected to decide who tops the group, with a likely quarter-final against either England or South Africa.

Jenkins looked on the last-gasp defeat as a lost opportunity.

“We were in the driving seat, we were in front and had possession that we should have run the clock down on, but that
hasn’t happened,” he said.

“We’ll reflect now on what’s happened here, we’ll have a good look at it and then we’ll make the call about next week.

“We’ve come here not to experiment, but we’ve come here to be competitive in two Tests and we won’t be selecting for World Cup, we’ll be selecting to actually beat Australia next week.”

Jenkins said his prime purpose on the Australian tour was to develop strength in depth ahead of the announcement of the 30-man Welsh World Cup squad on August 14.

“We realise that at the moment we have got strength in depth, we have got players competing for jerseys and positions and the boys on this tour, tonight in particular, has put pressure on me come that date,” he said.

One of the positives for Jenkins was the appearance of high-profile back Gavin Henson off the bench on the right
wing for the last 30 minutes.

The 25-year-old’s stock has fallen sharply over the last two years, to the point where he was overlooked by Jenkins for this year’s Six Nations opener against Ireland.

“It was always a case of bringing him (Henson) on the tour to give him rugby opportunity if the situation was right and it was right to bring him on in the second half,” Jenkins said.

“And when he was on the field he proved to all of us he’s skilled and he’s a super-athlete, he was a positive in that last 30
minutes.”

Sapa-AFP

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