Wallabies must develop killer instinct - O'Connor
ESPN Staff
November 11, 2014
More to come from Wallabies - Cheika

Australia must develop a killer instinct to win the biggest rugby games, James O'Connor says, while another Wallabies winger in exile in France, Digby Ioane, says the tourists can "expect to suffer" physically against Les Bleus in Paris on Saturday.

The Wallabies' decision-making has come into focus recently, after poor decisions late in the match cost them victory against the All Blacks in the third Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane in October. They also kept Wales in the game at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday, when they handed back possession with questionable kicking tactics in the dying moments, prompting ESPN correspondent Greg Growden to write in The Growden Report on Monday that they "lack clear thinkers under pressure, and for some ridiculous reason prefer to be kamikazes in the final minutes of Test matches".

Nick Phipps said in Paris on Monday that Michael Cheika had told his Wallabies players that similar poor decisions wouldn't be tolerated in the future, the half-back saying the coach had "made that pretty clear, that's not what we're going to be doing from now on".

Ioane wonders if some of the problem can be traced to the fact that Australia's captain, Michael Hooper, is still relatively inexperienced as a leader. Hooper, who has won 39 caps, has captained the Wallabies just 11 times after assuming the armband when Stephen Moore sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first Test against France in June; he also has limited experience as a captain with New South Wales, having led them in just four full games - including the tense Super Rugby grand final victory over the Crusaders.

Wales 28-33 Australia (Australia only)

"[Hooper] is young and should improve," Midi Olympique quoted Stade Francais winger Ioane as saying. "It's still early for him. Australia still lacks a leader who grabs matches with both hands."

O'Connor, meanwhile, said the Wallabies "still lack ingredients to kill the matches" noting "their performances have been quite mixed", particularly in the Rugby Championship in which they produced good and abysmal performances against the All Blacks but suffered an unexpected defeat by Argentina.

"There are positives but many negatives," Midi Olympique quoted the Toulon player as saying. "They really are not far off but they do not have this killer instinct. But this is a good team, with fantastic players, and I am confident they will quickly find the solutions to turn the results around."

Australia have performed well since the Rugby Championship - suffering a heartbreaking last-minute loss to New Zealand in Brisbane before defeating the Barbarians and maintaining their mental stranglehold over Wales with their 33-28 victory in Cardiff on Saturday - and they will face France this Saturday knowing they swept the three-Test series in June under former coach Ewen McKenzie, whose team humbled Les Bleus 50-23 in Brisbane and 39-13 in Sydney either side of their 6-0 victory in Melbourne. Equally, France mauled Australia 33-6 when the Wallabies last played at Stade de France, in 2012, when the hosts ended a seven-year drought against the tourists.

"I thought we had a really good week in training but on the night I don't think we expected the intensity and the ferocity of their players," Phipps said of that latest match in Paris. "They just absolutely blunted us. It was really hard to play with the ball and we didn't end up having it much, so we ended up defending a lot."

Ioane said that Australia would improve for the disciplined approach of Cheika after the resignation of McKenzie in the wake of the Kurtley Beale texting scandal, but he said the Wallabies would face a team seeking revenge of their disastrous tour in June.

"I well remember my first match against France in 2008," Midi Olympique quoted Ioane as saying of Australia's 18-13 victory. "We struggled to impose ourselves. The French want revenge against matches in June and that's never good for their opponents. Australia must expect to suffer."

Matt Giteau, another Wallabies star in exile in France, agrees that France will provide stiffer opposition than Australia faced in June.

Cheika has challenged the players to earn respect in Europe by proving they are not the weakest of the southern hemisphere's big three, saying "I think a lot of people in Europe thought we were going down [against Wales], a lot of people were saying we were there for the taking and we're the weakest of the southern hemisphere teams", and Giteau has backed the coach to change that perception.

"The reputation is that they're weaker, but the record doesn't speak that way," Giteau told Fairfax Media. "I don't agree with the perception … I think Australia generally can get back on track in Europe. If the Wallabies are just finding their feet [under Cheika], it's scary to think how much further they can develop."

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