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Rugby | International Rugby

Steep learning curve for Wales



Six Nations champions Wales arrived in Australia with lofty aspirations of ambushing a southern hemisphere power but confessed to feeling like tourists squinting at a map after losing the breakdown battle against the Wallabies.

With the three-match series billed as a battle of the back rows, the Wallabies, led by stand-in skipper David Pocock, beat the visitors 27-19 at Lang Park, menacing the Welsh around the tackle area and forcing a rash of turnovers.

Wales defensive coach Shaun Edwards conceded his players were initially groping in the dark trying to understand Craig Joubert's policing at the breakdown, which Pocock and fellow loose fowards Wycliff Palu and Scott Higginbotham exploited with aplomb.

Pocock, who enjoyed his first win in his second test match as captain standing in for injured lock James Horwill, said the Wallabies had kept their feet in the tackle a bit longer than the Welsh, and Wales defensive coach Shaun Edwards agreed.

"I'm really going to have work a lot more on the tackler getting back on his feet and competing on the ball because it was clearly evident that you were allowed to do that down here, whereas maybe where we are, you might get penalised for it," Edwards said after the game.

"That's something I'm going to do next week, it's a learning experience for me. Obviously (Australia coach) Robbie (Deans) coaches that ... because (Pocock) was having a massive influence on the game on the speed of our ball, compared to theirs.

"We were asked to roll away and we were rolling away, whereas their tackler was getting up and trying to make a nuisance over the ball. Clearly I've got to coach that a lot more than what I'm doing at the moment."

Australia had only three days to prepare for the Wales match after playing Scotland on Tuesday, but found enough in the tank to withstand a fierce Welsh challenge in the second half, despite the visitors not playing an international for three months.

Wales now face a stiff examination of their own fitness, as they head to Canberra to play ACT Brumbies, the Australian conference leaders in the southern hemisphere's provincial Super Rugby competition.

The Brumbies boast a number of seasoned Wallabies players and stand-in coach Rob Howley will be mindful of resting players in Canberra to recover in time to face a more assured Wallabies side in the second test in Melbourne.

Howley saw enough in his side's performance in Brisbane to be confident of pushing the Wallabies, but struck a cautious tone when asked about bouncing back in Melbourne.

"I think that that's the challenge when you come to the southern hemisphere on a tour when you're playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, it certainly asks questions of international players in terms of backing up.

"Obviously some of the players will have to back up tonight and play on the bench on Tuesday.

"Let's not forget how young this side is. It's their first time in the southern hemisphere and touring."

Much of Welsh hopes of squaring the season lie on the shoulders of captain Sam Warburton and fellow back-rowers Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau.

Warburton was forced to concede Pocock and Co. had had their measure on Saturday.

"They were very good at the contact area," he said. "That's something we can work on again. "We gave ourselves a lot of work after the first half performance.

"It was a shock to the system for us. The start was what killed us really."

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