Edwards blames lack of preparation time for Wales' defeat Down Under
22:00 GMT, 18 June 2012
Wales are ready for one final shot at history in the third Test against Australia thanks to a swim in the sea and the help of some local Swans.
The three-match series is over after the ambush in Brisbane and a last-gasp defeat in Melbourne but this Wales team can still become the first to beat the Wallabies on home soil for more than 40 years.
They spent Monday getting the defeat out of their system. First came an early-morning visit to Bronte beach and an invigorating dip in the ice-cold ocean. ‘Definitely one way to stop feeling sorry for yourself,’ was how defence coach Shaun Edwards described it.
Up and under: Wales have taken extra tips on how to defend the high ball
On the way back players and coaches stopped off to watch Aussie Rules outfit Sydney Swans perform a technical training session in fielding aerial balls. Catching high balls or ‘bombs’ under intense pressure is one of the core skills of the Tasmanian game and Wales were keen to pick up any extra tips they could get.
‘The aerial side of the game is a huge part of rugby union these days,’ said Edwards. ‘Losing the aerial battle is the hardest thing to defend against, even more so than a turnover, and we work a lot on our jumping technique. But we are grateful to pick up anything you can from the experts in that area.’
Although Ireland and Wales came agonisingly close to causing an upset on the weekend, the north-south divide in rugby seems as profound as ever and Edwards feels the calendar is always stacked against the northern hemisphere sides.
Only Scotland have beaten a southern hemisphere team this summer — and that victory came in near hurricane conditions against a second-strength Wallaby outfit.
Wales themselves are feeling the fatigue of a relentless season that effectively began with the gruelling pre-World Cup training camps more than a year ago.
‘If you look at the results over the
years the strength has been in the southern hemisphere, but you have to
look at the preparation they have had compared to the northern
hemisphere,’ Edwards said.
‘The only time we compete on a level
footing, with equal preparation, is at World Cups. With the Tri Nations,
the Aussies, All Blacks and South Africans have traditionally had four
months together all the way up to the November internationals. The
northern hemisphere teams only have a week to prepare.
Playing for pride: Wales have already lost the three-match series Down Under
‘If you look at the win-loss ratio at
the World Cup you will notice the northern hemisphere teams do
substantially better than they do in the Autumn series and in the
end-of-season fixtures in June. Our guys have been playing non-stop for
have been an ideal preparation to play a game before we came out here.
Sam (Warburton) hadn’t played for 11 weeks and (Dan) Lydiate for five or
six weeks. It was the same for a lot of the guys who played in
‘We looked a lot sharper in Melbourne and a little bit more like our own selves. The preparation has been an issue, but then you also have to put up your hands and respect the standard of rugby being played down here.
‘We haven’t gathered to discuss the game together as yet, but you could sense the feeling of huge disappointment and an opportunity definitely missed. Hopefully, as the week progresses, that will turn into a determination to not leave these shores without a victory in a Test match.
‘We will be going all out to win the game. If we win on Saturday it will be the first time in the professional era that we’ve beaten a southern hemisphere side away from home and the first time since 1969 to beat Australia in their own back yard. That’s a big goal to shoot for.’
Edwards has also called on the senior players to pull the side together this week, comparing this scenario to the final week on the Lions tour three years ago where the players earned redemption in Johannesburg in the final Test.
‘The leadership within the team will have to come to the fore,’ he said. ‘It is similar to the scenario we had with the Lions in South Africa in 2009 and we probably saved our best performance until the last game.
‘It is another game for these lads to play together and hopefully we will see another improvement and get our best performance. Whether that will be good enough, I really don’t know, because maybe Australia will improve as well. But I’d like to think we will see our best performance on Saturday.’