Burke backing physical approach

The man who kicked Australia to a series victory over the Lions a decade ago is predicting a fierce battle up front when the Wallabies kick off their World Cup campaign on Sunday. [more]

Burke backing physical approach

The man who kicked Australia to a series victory over the Lions a decade ago is predicting a fierce battle up front when the Wallabies kick off their World Cup campaign on Sunday.

Australia face Italy at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland and Matt Burke says they will need to match the physicality they displayed in their Tri Nations clinching win against the All Blacks if they are to see off the Azzurri.

While the Kiwis may be a much tougher proposition all round, Burke knows the Italian pack will be no pushovers in the Pool C opener, especially at scrum time. The setpiece has long been considered an Australian weakness but Sunday’s showdown could go a long way to showing critics that they now have a tight five capable of providing the kind of platform their mercurial backs can regularly thrive off.

"The intensity and physicality we saw against the All Blacks has to be there again against the Italians,“ Burke, who was one of the standout performers in the second and third Tests against the 2001 Lions, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The Wallabies need to continue where they left off in Brisbane. The defining moment in that game was the stand-and-deliver mentality they showed even before the game started. The way the Wallabies held their ground after the haka showed us a side to this team we hadn't seen for a long time – they have a hard edge.

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"The players are going to need all that hard edge and physicality because they take on an Italian pack renowned for towelling up opposition scrums. In a way, the scrum, led by Martin Castrogiovanni, Salvatore Perugini and Andrea Lo Cicero, has defined this Italian team during the past few seasons."

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans clearly isn’t taking the Italian challenge lightly after naming a strong side and a forward-orientated bench.

And while the current crop of Australians are renowned for their attacking instincts out wide, the signs in selection suggest the Wallabies haven’t forgotten that games can’t be won in style without a solid platform up front. 

"The Wallabies have shown the Azzurri the ultimate respect by selecting a full-strength team," added Burke.

"They have gone for the five-two split of forwards to backs on the bench. This signals the Wallabies' plan of attack and it means the forwards, even in the rotations off the bench, will have to be productive to allow the tight five to gain ascendancy.

"It gives their winning forwards combination the chance to continue working together and they will try to dominate a strong Italian side.

"It's all about being consistent up front and if the Wallabies can do that against an aggressive side, they will make their first statement of the tournament. They will show their respect for opposition teams by being incredibly physical.

"Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu have the first task – repelling the Italian front row. In the latter part of the game, Tatafu Polota-Nau and James Slipper will come to the fore. The size and strength of these five men will set the platform for the Wallabies."

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