Rugby

Wallabies look to march on

2014-06-19 09:34
Ewen McKenzie (AFP)

Sydney - The Wallabies are chasing their best winning run in 14 years and France a first win in Australia since 1990 in Saturday's third and final Test in Sydney.

Australia have already retained the Trophee des Bicentenaires following contrasting victories over Les Bleus in Brisbane (50-23) and Melbourne (6-0), and are after a seventh straight win under coach Ewen McKenzie.

The Wallabies, with their sights on wresting the Bledisloe Cup off the world champion All Blacks later this year, are looking for a series sweep over the French in a rare afternoon Test match at Allianz Stadium.

Under McKenzie, who coached at Stade Francais in Paris over 2008-09, the Australians are adapting to different playing requirements with their breezy seven-try win in Brisbane followed by an ugly try-less victory over France last week in Melbourne.

It was the Wallabies' lowest Test winning total in 87 years and the first time the French have finished a Test without a point in 44 encounters with Australia.

"You're always working towards that complete game where you find the balance between your intentions in attack and an impenetrable defence," McKenzie said.

"It has been pleasing to see the squad highlight those characteristics at different points across the past six games.

"While we try to always play an up-tempo brand of rugby with 23 tries in the past six games, our defence has also been steadily improving with each match, culminating with a shut-out of the French in Melbourne.

"The challenge is to put both together and that will be our goal on Saturday."

McKenzie has tinkered with his starting XV in the dead-rubber Test, bringing in giant lock Will Skelton for his Wallaby debut and his Waratah teammate Wycliff Palu at No 8.

"I've been really impressed with his attitude and the contribution he's made to this team since the beginning of the series," McKenzie said of the towering Skelton.

"He's obviously got impressive metrics but he also has a big motor and is particularly skilful, so we're looking forward to seeing how he will impose himself on the game."

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre said he had watched Skelton -- who measures six feet eight inches (203 centimetres) - play Super Rugby for the Waratahs.

"I was very impressed because he looked like a giant. We know he is strong, powerful and he will bring much more power in the pack with the No.8 Palu," he said.

Should Australia again beat France this weekend, it will be the first time since 2000 that the team has won seven consecutive Tests.

"The last Wallabies team to do that won a World Cup," lock Rob Simmons said.

"So if we can get seven in a row, it puts us in good stead going forward."

Saint-Andre has made two changes to his starting side, recalling fullback Hugo Bonneval to replace Maxime Medard on the wing and Fulgence Ouedraogo into a reshuffled back row.

Ouedraogo will start at openside flanker with captain Thierry Dusautoir switching to the blindside.

"We want continuity for a team which gave us plenty of satisfaction last week, even if we lost," Saint-Andre said. "We were consistent for 80 minutes in Melbourne."

He said a victory over the third-ranked Wallabies was psychologically important ahead of next year's World Cup.

"With 14 months to go till the World Cup every match will count," he said.

Dusautoir will lead Les Bleus for a record 49th time in Sydney on Saturday.

"Thierry Dusautoir will enter into French rugby history and overtake Fabien Pelous," Saint-Andre said.

Read more on:    wallabies  |  ewen mckenzie  |  rugby
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