Rugby World Cup 2011
Punches at training 'healthy'
Wallabies in training this week (Getty Images)
Auckland - High-spirited training with punches thrown was "healthy competition" within the Wallaby squad in the countdown to Sunday's opening Rugby World Cup game, centre Anthony Fainga'a said on Friday.
There were reports of an intense workout by the Wallabies squad at a closed training session on Wednesday with punches flying underscoring the pent-up tension and aggression within the ranks ahead of the Italy game.
Flank David Pocock was quoted as saying the "the boys just got stuck in to each other" as it got willing at training.
"It was brutal. It was full-on contact, very physical and pretty intense," Pocock said.
"Guys like Wycliff Palu were just fired up, which was great to see, particularly for the group. I think it's safe to say he is back to full fitness after Thursday."
Rugged-tackling outside centre Fainga'a didn't shirk the issue when probed by reporters on Friday about the reports.
"There's 30 guys in a squad and only 22 can put on the jumpers so there's always going to be a few punches and words at training," the Queensland Reds' midfielder said.
"There's spots up for grabs and no one has really secured their spot so it's one of those things that need to be sorted.
"That's how we become the better players by having guys chasing right behind you and making you become a better player but also just keeps you on your toes the whole time. It creates a healthy culture.
"You have to take a game attitude to every training session that you have, so we train how we play."
Deposed Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom said full-blooded training was the right preparation for an expected fierce contest with the Azzurri forwards at North Harbour.
"I can rarely ever fault us at training. I think if there's one thing we do well and that's prepare," blindside flanker Elsom said.
"We know Italy are a very good side, we've experienced pressure from them in the past so I think we have a reasonable handle of what they are going to bring to the game and it's about us trying to better that."
Fainga'a, who has justified coach Robbie Deans's faith in him after the shock dumping of 92-capped Matt Giteau from the Wallaby squad, said he was working hard on developing an understanding in the centres with fellow newcomer Pat McCabe.
"It's something Pat and I have been working hard on and we're also working with Quade (Cooper) to make sure that we both understand his game," he said.
"Both Italy's centres are fantastic and for us it's about containing their backline, they're very big dudes so it's going to be a test on Sunday.
"I'm a tackling centre, that's my trademark, but it's do what I do and that's tackling, run hard, ball play if I have to and play like another 12 (inside centre) with the 13 (outside centre) on my back.
"Two weeks against the All Blacks it was a small indication of what I can do."
Fainga'a, whose twin brother Saia is Sunday's reserve hooker, said he has benefitted from playing outside Cooper for the Reds and Wallabies.
"I've learned a lot playing outside Quade thoughout the whole year. Quade has been sort of our quarter-back, he just throws passes and he only attacks so it's been good," he said.
"I've played with him over the last two years so I have got a bit of an understanding of Quade Cooper and how he works.
"I know just from his body language how things can pan out."
* Click HERE for the latest Rugby World Cup odds on BET.CO.ZA