Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Wales' opponents big in Japan

All eyes in the rugby world will be firmly fixed on the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo this weekend when two of Wales opponents in next month's Invesco Perpetual Series clash in a fourth Bledisloe Cup match of the season.

Last year the extra game was played in Hong Kong. This time New Zealand and Australia meet in the Japanese capital at the same venue where Lynn 'The Leap' Davies won his Olympic gold medal in the long jump way back in 1964.

The Wallabies may not be in Wales for a month, but they want to send a powerful message from Tokyo this weekend to Ryan Jones and his players that they are no soft option.

New vice-captain Berrick Barnes says that this weekend's Bledisloe Cup clash is more than just a chance to end a run of six successive defeats at the hands of arch-rivals New Zealand.

As a pre-cursor to his team's first Grand Slam tour in 25 years, he wants to use the game to hammer out a warning to England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales that the Wallabies are no soft touch.

''It's crucial for us to have a good result in Tokyo.'It will help us to send a message to the teams we are playing in the Grand Slam leg of the tour that we are fair dinkum," said Barnes.

"Right now they are probably looking at us and thinking they can knock us off, that we are the easiest of the three southern hemisphere teams to beat. 'What we have talked about over the last three weeks is winning back some respect, not just in our part of the world, but also up north."

The Wallabies finished bottom of the Tri Nations table this year with only one win, albeit over the eventual winners the Springboks. But they ended on a low note with a 33-6 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington.

Coach Robbie Deans has made four personnel changes and one positional from the team that went down in Wellington for Saturday's historic meeting.

Wingers Digby Ioane and Peter Hynes, centre Ryan Cross and No 8 Wycliff Palu are the new faces in the starting line-up from last month, with Adam Ashley-Cooper reverting from centre to fullback in the place of James O'Connor.

QUANTAS WALLABIES (v New Zealand, Saturday, 31 October)
Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies); Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds), Ryan Cross(Western Force), Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); Matt Giteau (Western Force), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Mark Chisholm (Brumbies), Rocky Elsom (Brumbies, captain), David Pocock (Western Force), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs).
Replacements: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Matt Dunning (Western Force), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), George Smith (Brumbies), Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), James O'Connor (Western Force)


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