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Barnes looks for end-of-season rewards

Berrick Barnes is determined to see Australia turn the Millennium Stadium all gold on Saturday when he wins his 50th cap and skipper Nathan Sharpe bows out of Test rugby.

Barnes has a perfect record against Wales - played seven, won seven - and there is every incentive to continue that run this weekend.

"We have got 80 minutes of our season left and we have to leave the tank empty," he said. "It is Sharpie's last game, and we have a number of things to play for. To finish the year second in the world rankings would be huge. It was where we started the year and it would be great reward for a lot of the hard work people have put in, especially the coaching staff."

Australia will arrive at the Millennium Stadium to complete a European tour that started with a comprehensive defeat against France, but then rallied through victories over England and Italy, albeit narrow ones. Their prospects, though, are enhanced considerably by star forward and openside destroyer David Pocock returning from injury.

"If you look at the top 10 nations in the world, leaving out the All Blacks, everyone is on pretty much a level footing at the moment," Barnes said. "Anyone can give anyone a run on their day. I know how Wales are feeling, but this is a game where they can draw a line in the sand before the Six Nations, a big opportunity for them.

"For us, consistency has been our bugbear all year, and we would love to string three wins together."

Although Australia whitewashed Wales during last summer's three-Test series Down Under, there was little to choose between the teams on the scoreboard, and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes nothing will change.

"There has not been anything between the sides in the encounters over the past year, and Saturday will be the same," he said. "The teams are familiar with each other, and constant analysis in international rugby means there are not too many surprises.

"Defences have been ramped up since the World Cup last year and it is much harder to break teams down. Physical conditioning has something to do with that, and Wales are one of the best-conditioned sides in the world. Wales will throw everything at us, but the pressure is on both sides. They will feel they need the win, and so do we.

"It is our last outing this year, and we do not want to be unhappy with our last performance. It is the last opportunity for our group before the British and Irish Lions series."


From Belfast Telegraph