Blades braced for ‘four of the best’

Wallaby forwards coach Andrew Blades is ready for a series of hugely physical encounters as his side embark on their end of year tour. [more]

Blades braced for ‘four of the best’

Wallaby forwards coach Andrew Blades is ready for a series of hugely physical encounters as his side embark on their end of year tour.

The Lions’ next opponents are better known for their brilliant back play than their dominant forward displays but Blades knows the latter will have to come to the fore this month and next.

Australia take on France, England, Italy and Wales on successive Saturdays, starting in Paris this weekend, and Blades has warned his players to be ready for a ferocious battle at the setpiece and at the breakdown.

''You really need that when you go up to the northern hemisphere, because this time of year the weather can be pretty foul and it can be suited to tucking it under the jumper and playing some fairly tight rugby at times,” said Blades.

“You have to be ready for that expectation.

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''The French have got a very heavy tight five and they maul a lot off lineouts in the game and they have a very attacking scrum.

''England will present quite a different threat because they've got a very big, athletic back row; Italy were a very much grind-you-down game in the past, they changed in the Six Nations a little bit but they'll be good; and everyone knows the challenges Wales brought in June with their big pack.

“They're four of the best packs in world rugby at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Wallaby boss Robbie Deans is facing an anxious wait on a number of injured stars as they continue their preparations in Paris.

Influential openside David Pocock, veteran hooker Stephen Moore, first-choice wing Digby Ioane and second row Sitaleki Timani are all hoping to be fit to face the French.

Pocock hasn’t played since August due to a knee injury; Moore has sat out the last five fixtures with a hamstring problem; Ioane damaged his knee in the win over Argentina last month; and Timani came off after just 20 minutes of the third Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks with a back injury.

Deans is cautiously optimistic that they will be available for selection sooner rather than later but is unsure whether the French encounter will come around too quickly for their liking.

"They're all going well but it's a matter of, particularly with the travel, whether they're good enough to enter the fray this week," said Deans, who insists there is no sign of tiredness in his squad despite it being a busy few months and a long year for his players.

"It's a game that's important to both teams; both teams have stated that.

"Our guys are very enthusiastic about this trip. They're looking forward to it. Sure, it's been off the back of a big calendar year, but within the group you wouldn't know that."

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