Australia need to improve mentally, says David Pocock

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David Pocock says it is “all about the mental side of things” after Australia suffered an eighth Test match defeat this year.

The Wallabies’ 9-6 loss to Wales in Cardiff was their first in the fixture since 2008 following 13 successive victories.

Substitute Dan Biggar’s late penalty saw Wales follow Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina in toppling Australia during recent months.

Pocock and company now head to Padova for an appointment with Itay next weekend, before a testing season finale against England at Twickenham.

“It is all mental,” Wallabies number eight Pocock said. “Physically, everyone is strong and fit. and it is all about the mental side of things.

“As players, we know that and are working on that. I suppose you are reminded how tough Test match rugby is.

Wales player celebrate their historic victory.

Wales player celebrate their historic victory.

“We are obviously disappointed. We were right in it. Our defence was good, but our attack didn’t fire as well as we had hoped, and that happens sometimes.”

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika added: “Our defence was excellent, and the effort and just the energy around the game was really good.

“But too many small errors – whether at the lineout at key moments or in discipline – key moments cost us and released the pressure valve that we had on the opposition.”

Cheika, meanwhile, played down any relevance of Australia losing to Wales 10 months before the countries meet again in a 2019 World Cup pool match.

“Everyone has got a different opinion on that stuff,” he said.

“My opinion on rugby is when you get to the game no-one is thinking about what happened 10 years ago, one minute ago. You are thinking about what you are going to do for the next 80 minutes in that individual moment.

“Yes, it’s in our nature to want to look at how this could effect that and the knock on like it’s a big game of dominoes, but it’s not really.

“You just turn up, kick off and it’s on for 80 minutes. When that game happens, it will be an individual moment of itself and it’s about who is best on the day.”

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Ireland boss Joe Schmidt to let Conor Murray decide on surprise return

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Conor Murray

Joe Schmidt will let Conor Murray decide himself whether the British and Irish Lions scrum-half should make a surprise return against New Zealand.

Ireland ground past Argentina 28-17 in Dublin on Saturday, with the luckless Sean O’Brien breaking his right arm just 38 minutes into his first Test in 12 months.

Peerless Munster scrum-half Murray was omitted from Ireland’s 42-man autumn international squad due to ongoing neck problems and has not played since the summer tour to Australia.

But Schmidt admitted the 29-year-old Murray could yet face the All Blacks – but only if he feels fully ready himself.

“I’m going to chat to Conor and see how he is,” said Schmidt.

“It will really be Conor’s call, so I can’t answer that until I’ve chatted to him.”

New Zealand boss Steve Hansen has previously joked it could have been an “Irish trick” to leave Murray out of the autumn squad, given the Munster star has already been back in training.

Hansen has long suspected Murray could be parachuted in to face New Zealand in Dublin on November 17, and the chances of that happening have increased following Ireland’s patchy win over the Pumas.

Asked why Murray was left out of Ireland’s squad in the first instance, Schmidt replied: “Well again it was really to take the pressure off him.

“There was no compulsion to push himself forward or to come out and try to force himself into the frame, unless he’s super comfortable.

“Because we’ve got three guys doing a good job. But Conor has that incredible capacity to exit us well, give us the free-flow and whip out a pass that makes him a world-class player.

“It’s not the injury it’s really just how ready Conor is; how fully fit he is.

“Because the injury itself has gone really well. So it is tough to come back into a game of that magnitude though.

“It is highly unlikely he will be involved, but as I said, I will talk to him.”

Despite O’Brien’s injury blow, Schmidt hopes Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw will be fit to face the All Blacks.

“Sean O’Brien has broken his right arm, so he obviously won’t be available for the rest of the series,” said Ireland boss Schmidt.

“Robbie (Henshaw), his hamstring tightened during the warm-up, we’re going to have to have a look at it and we’ll know more in the next few days.

“We’re hopeful because we didn’t try to push him. We felt it would be a twofold risk, one would he do more damage and two, it’s always difficult if you have to replace someone five minutes into a Test match.

“Kieran Marmion just rolled his ankle a little bit, so we’d be very hopeful he’ll be fine.

“He might have to elevate and ice that, but we’re relatively confident he’ll be okay.”

Gritty Leinster flanker O’Brien has battled serious shoulder and knee issues in the last year, and now faces possibly at least six more weeks on the sidelines.

Schmidt admitted the 31-year-old O’Brien has been floored by his latest injury.

“Sean’s gutted, I’m gutted for him and the team are too,” said Schmidt.

“I thought he was just getting into his rhythm.”

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Wales coach Warren Gatland prepared to endure nervous finish for long-awaited win over Wallabies

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Warren Gatland will bow out as Wales boss after 12 years following this year's World Cup.

Warren Gatland hailed his Wales players for digging deep after they ended their long losing run against Australia.

Wales’ 9-6 victory at the Principality Stadium was their first over Australia since 2008 and came at the 14th attempt.

Substitute Dan Biggar’s 77th-minute penalty also gave Wales a seventh win on the bounce against all opponents – their longest unbeaten run under Gatland and best since 2004-05.

Six of Wales’ losses in that 13-Test Wallabies sequence had been by five points or less, and head coach Gatland admitted: “I was struggling in the last few minutes.

“I thought it was deja vu – that we were going to lose in the last minute, but the boys dug deep.

“From a defensive point of view it was the most comfortable I have ever felt against Australia.”

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny missed two easy first-half penalties that looked to have derailed Welsh victory hopes.

But Halfpenny, the third-highest scorer in Welsh international rugby history behind Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones with more than 700 points, managed two successful strikes off the tee before Biggar came up trumps.

Halfpenny was off the pitch at that point, having been felled by a high tackle from Samu Kerevi, which meant Biggar assumed kicking duties as he edged Wales home after Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua kicked penalties for Australia.

“I didn’t think I would see the day when Leigh would miss two (kicks) in front of the posts,” Gatland added.

“He is so focused and I wasn’t worried about him missing the kicks, it was more affecting the rest of his game.

“His performance was outstanding. He ran really well – that was a pleasing aspect. If he had missed kicks like that in the past, his game might have gone to pieces, but world-class players don’t let that happen.

“He carried on with what was in front of him.”

As for the Kerevi challenge, Gatland said: “I thought the tackle on Leigh was reckless.

“It was potentially a yellow card. He was going to make contact with him, but he has left that shoulder in. He could have turned his back or put an arm out to soften the blow.

“The hard thing for Leigh is that he has now got to go through the return to play protocols. We will make sure he is right.

“It is a tough job out there for a referee. If the referee puts his hand up and says he has made a mistake, I am happy enough with that.”

The victory was the first time since 1981 that Wales have won a Test match with a single figure-points total – they beat Ireland 9-8 on that occasion – and pressure will now increase on Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika.

It was Australia’s eighth defeat from 11 starts this year and Cheika said: “There were too many small errors, whether at the lineout or indiscipline, and they cost us.

“The pressure we built up we released by either infringing or losing the ball at the lineout.

“Wales have a strong defence. They kicked a fair bit and made a couple of good decisions and we didn’t execute a couple of key moments and released a pressure valve on the opposition.

“Wales are a good team – they are ranked third in the world for a reason. It was a tight game and this one went against us.

“Those things have happened to us this year and we have got to take that on the chin, understand what we did well and improve the things we didn’t do well and get a win next week.”

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