Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Warburton wants southern scalps

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Sam Warburton wants Wales to take a leaf out of England's book and help write a long-overdue chapter in the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions' history.

Wales have been Europe's form team across the past six seasons, winning three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reaching a World Cup semi-final.

But amid the many highlights of coach Warren Gatland's reign, there has been a failure to beat three of the top four ranked countries in world rugby.

Two of them - South Africa and Australia - will headline Wales' forthcoming autumn Test programme at the Millennium Stadium, and Wales captain Warburton knows the results ledger needs urgent addressing.

Wales have not beaten the Springboks since 1999, while it is eight defeats in a row against Australia, including four on home soil, and world number one nation New Zealand last lost to the men in red 60 years ago.

As England approach the 10th anniversary of their World Cup triumph in Australia, their record against rugby's southern hemisphere heavyweights during the two-year period prior to that tournament is worth recalling.

Between November 2001 and World Cup kick-off in 2003, England reeled off successive wins against Australia (three times), South Africa (twice) and New Zealand (twice). From June 2000 to June 2004, England did not lose against any of those countries.

And Wales - on current form, they are genuine 2015 World Cup contenders - know they have to crack the southern hemisphere code, starting this autumn.

"Getting that win against a southern hemisphere side is something we have been looking forward to for such a long time," said Warburton, who was just 15 when England conquered the rugby world.

"We have got to the stage now where we have done well in the northern hemisphere, but I always look at the England team of 2003 that managed to play the Tri-Nations sides and beat them all.

"As a group of players, that has to be the next step for us. We keep doing well in the Six Nations, which is your bread and butter.

"But it is getting to the stage now where we have to perform in the autumn and start taking the southern hemisphere scalps.

"In my experience, South Africa and Samoa are the two most physical sides I have played against. Personally, I really like playing against them because it is the physical challenge I look forward to.

"The morning after, you are always feeling battered and bruised.

"The last time we played against them (South Africa) was back in the (2011) World Cup, and we were unlucky not to get a result. That was two years ago, and we are looking forward to playing them again."

The Springboks arrive at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week, and they will start as favourites to make it 14 wins in a row at Wales' expense.

Wales, though, are back in Cardiff for the first time since destroying England's Grand Slam dream with a record 30-3 Six Nations title-clinching triumph last March, while nine of next week's prospective team started when the British and Irish Lions crushed Australia 41-16 in Sydney almost four months ago.

"We are probably as confident as we have ever been going into this autumn, and we are hopeful we will do well," Lions skipper Warburton added.

"It is good to have this two-week preparation period because we have not been together now for about six months. It has gone really well.

"We have got a pretty good formula already, and that familiarity is nice coming back into the Wales squad. We can hit the ground running.

"It has been quite a while since we have been together as a national team, and it's about making sure we get everything right going into the first game.

"In the first matches of campaigns we have not always started as we would have liked to. We need to replicate that sort of intensity in training so there is not that shock to the system when we play international rugby.

"The new, young guys who have come in are great athletes and players. They will only add to what we have in the squad already.

"I am confident that whoever steps into a Wales jersey will produce the goods."

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