Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Hibbard wary of Wallabies

Richard Hibbard believes the Australia's banned players will have a point to prove

Richard Hibbard believes the Australia players banned by coach Ewen McKenzie following a midweek drinking session in Dublin will "have a point to prove" against Wales next Saturday.

Five of the group - Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Liam Gill, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson - served their suspensions for the Scotland Test at Murrayfield two days ago.

Prop Paddy Ryan's one-match ban, though, takes effect for the Millennium Stadium appointment with Wales.

McKenzie suspended the six - and warned nine other players - for drinking in midweek before the clash against Ireland, a game that Australia won 32-15.

"We should sort out a free bar in Cardiff!" joked Wales hooker Hibbard, before adding: "They will have a lot of critics to answer after being dropped.

"They will be disappointed and will want to finish the tour and their season on a high. They will have a point to prove."

Australia bounced back from their tour-opening defeat against England earlier this month by beating Italy, Ireland and Scotland, while they have reeled off eight successive wins at Wales' expense, including a dramatic injury-time success in Cardiff last year.

Half of those eight defeats for Wales were by three points or less, and Hibbard said: "We've been so close over so many games, but now is the time to do it.

"We have been saying it so long, and now we have to deliver. We targeted four from four victories (Wales lost to South Africa), so three isn't too bad and is something we can achieve."

Several Wales players, including Hibbard, will return to face the Wallabies next weekend less than five months after helping the British and Irish Lions record a landslide, series-clinching win against Australia in Sydney.

And Hibbard has no doubt those Wales stars who were involved Down Under can carry that experience with them into battle at the Millennium Stadium.

"Any person who beats the Wallabies, with no matter what side, is going to bring that experience to the party," he added.

"We were physical (in Sydney). We battered them for 60 minutes and that was the end of it. They couldn't survive after that, and we have to bring that ferocity again.

"It was intense, but one of those situations where you don't want to walk off the pitch, you are willing to crawl off. You would do anything for the win because it's that important.

"It was the same against England (in last season's Six Nations) and the ferocity was just as high.

"We definitely want to win this, we are going to win this, and we have to bring the intensity from the off and the physicality right across the park."

Hibbard, though, expects a fierce battle from the Wallabies, especially up front.

"They (Australia forwards) have come under a lot of fire over the years, but it's one of their weapons now. What they did to Ireland was impressive," he said.

"You can't say they are a weak pack, they never were, it was a myth. They are a strong unit and it will be a big challenge.

"Since the Lions tour, they are almost a different team. They played well in the Rugby Championship and seem a different team over here. Their confidence is high.

"All southern-hemisphere teams are a mental hurdle because they are always tough teams to beat. We expect to beat these teams now, and having gone down with the Lions and been so close with Wales over the years, that hurdle is not there any more.

"They scored in the last minute to win (against Wales) 12 months ago. We have to play the full 80 and we can't give them an inch because they are very good at staying with you and then stealing it.

"We've set ourselves loads of targets over the next years.

"We are playing all of the top teams during that time, and we really want to get some scalps going into the World Cup to get over any perceived myth that they are better than us."

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