Wales out to banish Oz hoodoo

2014-11-06 21:00
Warren Gatland (Gallo Images)

Cardiff - Warren Gatland's Wales have had a disastrous run of nine defeats against Australia, many by the smallest of margins, since their last victory in 2008.

But the Kiwi coach has targeted Saturday's Test at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium as a springboard towards securing a quarter-final spot in next year's World Cup.

That is not as easy as it sounds, with Wales grouped with not only the Wallabies, but also England and unpredictable Fiji, the latter knocking the Welsh out in 2007 but woeful in 2011.

"Our whole focus in the next 12 months has to be getting out of our group in the World Cup. That has to be our primary focus," said Gatland, who has led Wales to two Six Nations Grand Slams since taking over in 2007, but has failed to register a victory over either New Zealand or South Africa.

"Although we want to do exceptionally well in the autumn and the Six Nations -- and those are important games for us in making sure we perform well -- the long-term objective is getting out of that group and making the quarter-finals.

"Rugby changes pretty quickly," Gatland said. "We are pretty aware we have been knocking on the door and put ourselves in situations where -- perhaps not against the All Blacks, but definitely against South Africa and Australia -- on a number of occasions to win games.

"We have focused on that. We had a pretty honest debrief when we first came in and looked at the second Test in South Africa (in June when Wales were beaten 31-30) and hopefully the things we can learn, make sure that learning takes place and we are a bit more clinical when we get that opportunity again, if it does arise."

Success bred success, Gatland insisted: "Once you do it the first time, it becomes easier the second and the third time. We have got to get across the line and nail one of those victories.

"I think for a nation like Wales and the squad we've got, we feel like we punch massively above our weight.

"When we play these southern hemisphere teams now, they come fully-loaded. They don't look at putting second-string sides out against us, and maybe they do that against one or two of the other Six Nations teams.

"When they play Wales, I think there is a sign of respect that there are no second-string players playing against us. We know we are up against the best, and that's exactly how we want it."

Gatland said he expected a "frenetic" game against Australia, who last weekend edged a Barbarians team at Twickenham, and that the players had been put well and truly through their paces.

"The last two weeks have been tough," he said. "The players have trained exceptionally hard.

"We've really looked at the long-term plan in terms of this campaign, the Six Nations and the World Cup. We have run things a little differently in this campaign and in the Six Nations, almost like World Cup camps in terms of long-term preparation and planning."

On the pitch, Gatland said it was a simple matter where the game would be won or lost.

"You have always got to win the battle up-front, that is always the challenge. Australia are a good tough team up-front," he said.

"You can't underestimate them."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  warren gatland  |  rugby

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