By Nick Mulvenney
TOKYO (Reuters) – Wales were satisfied with how their pack went in their World Cup opening win over Georgia but they know they will have to be at their very best when they take on Australia in the crunch Pool D clash on Sunday.
Forwards coach Robin McBryde is expecting a monumental scrap at the breakdown at Tokyo Stadium against an Australian pack featuring Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the back row and Tolu Latu in the middle of the front row.
“They’ve got a very competitive six and seven, and the hooker as well is a threat over the ball, and they’re big men,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“If we’re in any way slow to get to that breakdown, they’re very big men to try to move so we have to make sure there’s no separation between ball carrier and our first arrivals.
“There were certain things we were very happy with against Georgia in our first game and we know we need to step up in other areas as well. We started well in the first half, just fell off a little bit in the second half.
“The threats Australia pose are far greater which means we’ll have to be at our best.”
Wales have their own back row weapons, of course, not least openside flanker Justin Tipuric.
“It’s invaluable to have someone like Justin in the ranks, he brings that air of calmness. He doesn’t say a lot but when he speaks it carries a lot of weight,” McBryde added.
“I know he didn’t get man-of-the-match award for the Georgia game but in my view he deserved it.
“To have someone like Justin with the experience he’s got, encouraging him to share that with the group this week, it’s just great really and makes my role as a coach much easier.”
Wales snapped a 13-match losing streak against Australia, which included two World Cup matches, when they beat the Wallabies in Cardiff last November.
“We’ll take heart from the fact we know we can beat them, but it’s different circumstances, there’s a lot more at stake, it’s going to be a good battle,” McBryde said.
Uruguay blew apart the expected permutations for Pool D with Wednesday’s upset victory over Fiji in Kamaishi and McBryde thinks the South Americans might have made their third pool match in Oita on Oct. 9 that much harder.
“It does not change our mindset at all, we are not looking further than the next game and if we can beat Australia it puts us in a really healthy place,” McBryde said.
“The Fiji game is going to be big regardless of what has gone on. We know they are a dangerous team on their day and will be hurting from that defeat so if anything it will make them more dangerous.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)