All in the mind as Wallabies put England away

Last updated 10:49 19/11/2012
Nathan Sharpe
Getty Images
MENTAL TOUGHNESS: Nathan Sharpe holds the Cook Cup aloft after the Wallabies win over England.

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Robbie Deans has defended his record as Wallabies coach and praised Australia for harnessing the mental aspect of their game to claim a fightback 20-14 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Deans said getting their attitude right in the lead-up to the test allowed the Wallabies to turn their fortunes around after their 33-6 flogging at the hands of the French the week before.

When asked if he knew the key to harnessing the Wallabies' mental game in the long term, to even out recent fluctuations, Deans defended the team's results.

''You say fluctuations but this is the third year in a row we've been ranked second in the world,'' he said. ''The first two years we went from fifth to third, [then stayed on] third, [then] second, second, second. That's consistency. We'd like to crack No 1, we're the closest [country] to doing that, but we're not there.''

There was visible joy on the field after the full-time bell sounded on Saturday afternoon and extensive celebrations in the dressing room afterwards as the Wallabies digested a pressure-relieving win with a gutsy effort against England.

Man of the match Michael Hooper, whose efforts at the breakdown and in attack played a huge part in the Wallabies' dominance, said the squad was capable of that effort every week. ''There is no science to it, it's about doing an 80-minute performance and getting that consistency, for 80 minutes,'' Hooper said. ''We are good enough to do that every week.''

The danger for the Wallabies is a repeat of the mental cooling off that brought them undone in Paris. A defining draw against the All Blacks was wasted as the Wallabies found themselves without answers to the questions France asked of them at Stade de France.

Deans said the coaching staff and players tried hard each week to not surrender the psychological edge required to eke out back-to-back wins against test teams.

''[Attitude] is a key component, particularly at this level, because it's just relentless, it [can be] slightly off and you're gone. The intensity in the game is so real that if you're not up for it, forget it,'' he said. ''It's important you enjoy what you do as well, because it's like in the game itself, not everything goes your way. It's about ensuring you get up and keep going and don't go missing. Post-match has the same challenge. There's another test match coming.''

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That would be Italy, hovering just outside the top 10 and for that reason a classic death trap for these Wallabies, who posed for photographs with a beer-filled Cook Cup after their win in London.

''They'll be lining up for a crack, they're a very competitive international side and they've put us under the pump on a couple of occasions, often in Italy when we tend to play on tabletops,'' Deans said. ''Set-piece will be big. It will be another test match.''

With Pat McCabe on his way home after scans revealed a fracture in the centre's neck, Deans will be heartened by the performance of the back line, which played with cohesion and creativity against England.

Ben Tapuai and Adam Ashley-Cooper partnered well in the midfield with five-eighth Kurtley Beale, wing Nick Cummins's efforts in attack were razor sharp and effective, while fullback Berrick Barnes patrolled confidently in the back.

''Berrick, he's legit,'' Cummins said. ''He's secure, he's safe at the back there, he'll take the high balls, which brings a lot of trust in the back three there as well. You know he's there, he's fit and he can tackle, so you know he's got your back. I thought he was very safe at the back there and we benefited from it.''

The Wallabies' forward pack was a different eight to the group that went missing against France a week earlier.

Ben Alexander's insertion into the front row had immediate impact but so, once again, did the entire pack's mental game.

''There's no secret the scrum is a massive booster,'' Hooper said. ''If the scrum is doing well, then your tails are up and you're going forward in all aspects of the field. From last week's [performance], it was a massive area.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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