Wallabies target NZ's spot

2011-12-04 13:57

Cardiff - Australia captain James Horwill set his side the challenge of becoming the world's best team next year after they ended 2011 with a 24-18 win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Victory gave Australia, the reigning Tri Nations title holders, a Test record for the calendar year of played 13, won nine and lost four.

But the Wallabies remained second in the global rankings behind world champions New Zealand, having been beaten 20-6 by the All Blacks in the semi-finals of the World Cup in October.

"There have been ups and the low points throughout the year," said Horwill. "Obviously, the Tri Nations was a big step for us and working our way out of games we previously wouldn't have got through.

"But on the other side of that are the games we did let slip and where we should have put in a better result," the lock added.

"We need to develop that over the next 12 months to become the number one team in the world and that's our goal, that by the end of next year we want to be the number one Test-playing nation in the world.

"New Zealand have that mantle at the moment, and rightly so, because they are very good and very consistent across the board," explained the Reds' second row.

"We need to become more consistent with a couple of things, but I'm happy with the year we've had and the boys thoroughly deserve the six weeks they are about to get off."

Australia coach Robbie Deans, whose team beat Wales 21-18 to finish third at the World Cup, said: "Obviously, the World Cup was the focal point and we, like Wales, left there frustrated - we hadn't achieved what we'd aspired to.

"But within that, there's been some good work done.

"We picked up the Tri Nations (title) which we haven't had for a decade and I think we are starting to produce some consistency. We picked up a couple of results under adversity and tonight (Saturday) was another one in a context that was challenging.

"The boys got up and got the job done."

Australia, in what was Wales wing Shane Williams's final international before his Test retirement, were 6-3 down at half-time.

But they silenced a crowd of more than 61 000 with three converted tries after Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny was sent to the sin-bin in the 49th minute by South African referee Jonathan Kaplan for tackling James O'Connor, impressive in his first Test start at flyhalf, without the ball.

"I am delighted with the effort, we were made to work for it," said Deans.

"We were a bit impatient in the first half but we adapted better in the second and we were able to bring some pressure to bear and score some points," said Deans after backs Will Genia, Lachie Turner and Berrick Barnes scored tries which were all converted by O'Connor.

But it was Williams, in extra-time, who had the last word when, after a trademark jinking run and sidestep, he extended his Welsh record haul to 58 tries in 87 Tests.

"He is a once-in-a-generation player," said Deans.

"He deserves every acknowledgement going. It was a nice way to finish, although I probably wasn't excited at the time until I saw who it was.

"He is a quality player and we wish him well. He has contributed to the game of rugby. He leaves a legacy a lot of players in Welsh rugby will want to follow. It's good for the game."