First glimpse of Lions’ foe

Australia began their tour of the UK with a convincing victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm on Tuesday night. [more]

First glimpse of Lions’ foe

Australia began their tour of the UK with a convincing victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm on Tuesday night.

The Australians scored five tries in a 36-5 win as English fans were given an early glimpse of a number of players who are likely to feature when the Lions tour Down Under in four years time.

The Lions’ 2013 adventure may seem a long way off but Australia coach Robbie Deans has already stated his intentions of blooding young players on the current tour with a view to the 2011 World Cup and beyond.

And while 14 of the Australian starting XV on display in the West Country could not be considered first-choice selections in the current season, plenty of them could be by the time the Lions look to avenge their 2001 series defeat.

The first try of a hard-fought game arrived with 12 minutes on the clock through outside centre Ryan Cross, the only member of the Australian XV to start Saturday’s 32-19 loss to the All Blacks.

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A 35-metre break from hooker Tatafu Polata won the Australians a penalty just shy of the Gloucester line, at which point the Cherry and Whites switched off and Quade Cooper took advantage. The Queensland Reds fly-half spotted Cross unmarked out wide and chipped beautifully into the right wing’s arms.

Having already kicked a fourth-minute penalty, the impressive Cooper then added the conversion to give the Australians a 10-0 lead.

At that point, it looked as though the floodgates may open but Gloucester made light of that prediction by hitting back with a try of their own.

Again, it was a clever cross-kick that proved crucial, as Carlos Spencer followed his opposite number in floating a right-footed chip into the arms of his winger. Charlie Sharples took possession and then fed Freddie Burns with an impressive sleight of hand wide on the right, with the full back given enough space to dive over unopposed.

Spencer missed the conversion but The Shed at least found their voice once more.

It proved to be as good as it got for Gloucester as the Australian line remained intact for the rest of the 80 minutes. Gloucester did continue to threaten but poor handling let the home side down on a number of occasions.

Australia, meanwhile, seemed able to step up a gear almost at will. Tyrone Smith’s well-taken try on the half-hour mark was a prime example of the potential of an exciting visiting backline, while two Drew Mitchell scores and another from Cooper added some gloss to a polished all-round performance.

Deans will have particularly pleased with the contribution of Cross and Cooper, both of whom could feature in this month’s autumn internationals.

With the Wallaby coach stating at the post-match press conference that Cross had asked to be involved at Kingsholm despite playing in the Bledisloe Cup in Tokyo only four days earlier, the former rugby league star looks set to start Saturday’s Test against England at Twickenham.

And Cooper’s assured display could well see him force his way into the Test 22 at some point on this tour. The absence of Berrick Barnes leaves a gap to be filled as a playmaking inside back and Coppoer could be the man to take advantage of Barnes’ misfortune.

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