RugbyU: Wales Desperate to Avoid Whitewash
Sydney. Welsh skipper Sam Warburton said his side would be motivated by their heartbreaking defeat to Australia as the Six Nations champions bid to avoid a Wallabies whitewash in the three-Test series.
The Welsh trail 2-0 after Mike Harris on Saturday kicked a penalty under huge pressure after the full-time siren to condemn the visitors to a 25-23 defeat in Melbourne.
Wales outscored Australia two tries to one and were magnificent in defence only to get rattled in the final frantic minutes with some poor option-taking.
Warburton’s young team, who were on the brink of Wales’s first Test victory in Australia for 43 years, will now try to prevent the Wallabies from securing a series cleansweep in Sydney next Saturday.
Warburton said the setback, coming just months after last year’s gut-wrenching 9-8 loss to France in the World Cup semi-finals, would spur his players on.
“I definitely don’t think we’re the sort of players who’ll put their heads down and not front up again next week,” Warburton said.
“We’ve always shown we’ve got character and this result will motivate and drive us even more to make sure we definitely get a result and don’t get on the plane home losing 3-0.
“We know we don’t deserve that and we’re much better than that.”
Caretaker coach Rob Howley said he would name his strongest team for the final Test even though it would be a dead rubber.
“This group have been to some dark places, particularly at the World Cup, and after today we’ll move on,” Howley said.
“Against these southern hemisphere sides we’re not far away and today we came close, but it’s our emotional intelligence and composure in critical areas and points in the game that we need to get better and we’ll focus on those areas during the week.”
Howley said the Welsh group had been floored by the last-gasp defeat.
“When you haven’t beaten Australia since 1969 (in Australia) and you’re 20 seconds away from doing it… it doesn’t get any worse than that,” he said.
“All the players and coaches are hugely disappointed and it suggests mastering those moments in international Test match rugby.
“On occasions today we didn’t master those moments as we’ve done in previous games, particularly in the Six Nations and that’s just a learning curve.”
Warburton said another painful lesson must be absorbed by Wales after giving the Australians one last crack to set up the game-clinching penalty off a rolling maul.
“The plan was to keep the ball. When the ball was kicked (by fly-half Rhys Priestland) I remember hearing Ryan Jones shout ‘no’ at the top of his voice,” he said.
“It wasn’t what the forwards were planning. I think a little composure and patience was what was needed.
“I thought we had learnt the lessons of that when we lost to the Barbarians last (northern) summer and as captain I remember thinking then that it would never happen again but it did tonight and obviously the message wasn’t clear enough.
“As a forward I would have wanted us to back our contact skills and keep the ball. We’ve done that successfully before. Hindsight is a great thing but that’s what we should have done.”