4:31pm Wednesday 27th November 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
WALES star Mike Phillips says he and his teammates have to focus for the full 80 minutes if they are to finally end their Wallabies curse.
Consigned to heartbreaking last-minute defeats in two of their last three agonising narrow losses to Australia, the nearly men of Test rugby look to put things right on Saturday.
Wales were defending their slim 12-9 lead nearly a year ago to the day when Kurtley Beale gatecrashed their party by diving over to steal the game for the Aussies at the Millennium Stadium with his 79th minute try.
Six months prior in June 2012, Wales were denied only their second ever win in Australia – what would have been the first in 43 years – when Phillips’ men were devastated by Mike Harris nailing a tricky penalty after the clock had gone past 80.
Both setbacks came after Wales failed to hold on to possession in the dying seconds following loose kicks by Rhys Priestland, Dan Biggar preferred to him at outside-half this weekend.
Scrum-half Phillips has never been on the victorious side for his country against the Wallabies – despite Wales beating Australia twice (2005 and 2008) during his international career.
But he did taste success against them for the British and Irish Lions in the first and third Tests during the 2-1 series triumph over the Wallabies this summer, the 30-year-old missing the 16-15 defeat in between.
Concentration is key for Phillips at the Millennium Stadium this weekend if Wales are to break their Aussie hoodoo and end an eight-match losing streak with a prized scalp that will also remove the need for another hard luck story.
“Australia are one of the best teams in the world and we’ll have to concentrate for the full 80 minutes if we want to beat them – that’s an aspect of our game we will have to improve on,” he said.
“Of course it was great to have the Lions experience of beating them, but playing against them in a Wales shirt is completely different.”
Phillips, currently without a club after leaving French Top 14 side over allegations he was under influence of alcohol at a team debriefing, also believes the Wallabies have improved under their new regime.
Ewen McKenzie succeeded Robbie Deans as head coach after Australia’s series defeat to the Lions in the summer.
A World Cup winner with the Wallabies in 1991, the former tighthead prop’s side are looking for their fourth win on the bounce after beating Italy, Ireland and Scotland, following their European tour opener, a 20-13 setback in Twickenham against England earlier this month.
Phillips, who wins his 80th cap this weekend, thinks McKenzie had made a difference: “They seem to have improved a lot in the last couple of games. Their forwards are good with ball in hand and they’ve got so many talented backs – we will have to be at our very best to beat them.”
And on is duel with Australia’s kingpin No 9 Will Genia, at just over 5ft 8in and 13st 5lb the antithesis is anatomy to the 6ft 3in and 15st 10lb Phillips, he said: “He is a very talented player and I’m looking forward to playing against him once again.
“We are expecting a very tough game and we welcome the pressure – that’s what we want.
“Training has gone well and we are so determined to do well against them. We seem to be improving every year.”
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group