NSW Waratahs v British & Irish Lions, Sydney
Waratahs' Dave Dennis out to 'knock off' Lions
Tom Hamilton in Sydney
June 14, 2013
Dave Dennis will be calling the shots for the Waratahs on Saturday © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis has called on his team to up their physicality and is adamant his side must maintain their discipline if they are to have any chance of beating the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
Dennis was a late addition to the Waratahs mix after he was released from Wallabies duty on Wednesday by coach Robbie Deans. He will now take his place in the team alongside Rob Horne, who was also released for New South Wales duty, and he is relishing the chance to take on the Lions come Saturday. But with an inexperienced pack and a team bereft of 14 players, Dennis is under no illusions over just how hard Saturday's game will be. He wants his team to front up around the ruck but he has full confidence in his team's ability to give the Lions a proper challenge.
"I've got confidence in the front-row and second-row and in the lineout," Dennis said after Friday's captain's run. "We're just going to keep it simple, be physical and go at them. We're not going to get bogged down in the fact that they are the Lions and we are the poor old Waratahs, the reality is it's a two-horse race and we're going to try and knock them off."
The Lions are four from four on their 2013 tour and although they were pushed close by the Reds, they hammered the Western Force and the Combined Country sides. For Dennis, the Lions game is now their No.1 priority and he is adamant they will front up come Saturday.
"At the start of the year it was right up there, if you spoke to any one of our players in January, they'd have said we want to play them," Dennis said. "Obviously there are a few missing out now with the Wallabies but everyone else who has been with the squad is really looking forward to this game. If we were in the finals for Super Rugby that would probably take preference in a sense but it is extremely important for us. We won't get this chance again. We respect the Lions and know what it means to their group but it also means a lot to us.
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"We need to hold on to the ball and play how we've played all year. But we need to that at another level, a higher intensity. They don't know what they're going to face until we get out there. Likewise we don't know what they're going to throw against us. If we can force them to defend then it'll give us a bit of room to give it to the boys out wide. As individuals we need to physicality around the ruck to the next level."
The Lions faced the Waratahs in 2001, a match tarnished by ugly scenes in the early part of the second half when Duncan McRae was shown a straight red card after he unleashed a flurry of punches on the prone Ronan O'Gara. Dennis predicts another physical encounter, but he wants his side to maintain their discipline. "The game's changed a bit," Dennis said. "I want to beat those blokes and we won't beat them with 13 or 14 men. We need to be smart about that. There's good ways of hurting them but you need to do that legally."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.