Sacred Cardiff ground still holds intimidating aura

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia might have the wood over Wales, but the Millennium Stadium intimidation factor still looms large on their Cardiff visits, captain Michael Hooper says.

Saturday’s clash will be the Wallabies’ 12th at Millennium Stadium in 13 years, but the iconic stadium still maintains an aura for new visitors.

Five players in Australia’s 23 are yet to play in Cardiff, with Ned Hanigan, Samu Kerevi, Matt Philip and Karmichael Hunt on their first Spring Tours and Marika Koroibete having just one mid-week game on the 2016 tour.

Even established lock Adam Coleman played just one full game in the Northern Hemisphere last year, with his tour cut short by injury.

“I would’ve thought we had (a familiarity), and when we ran out onto the field, a lot of guys were going ‘how good is this?”, Hooper said.

“You forget sometimes we're quite a young team, you forget there are some guys who it's their first trip over to Europe.

“It's something that as players who have played here before, (we need) to try and give them a bit of a, not a crash course, but just (tell them to) enjoy it, use it as motivation for you because it's an exciting place to play.”

Eighties classic Solid Rock by Goanna blared out through parts of Australia’s captain’s run, in a preview of the decibels sure to be belted out by the Welsh crowd on Saturday, continuing a musical tradition from the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where AC/DC’s Thunderstruck became the team’s anthem.

Once they’ve combatted the crowd, the breakdown will be a focus for the Wallabies, after being beaten in the ruck by Japan.

“Every player’s got to be on from the wingers into the props, being on their game, being urgent into that space and being smart around not using up too many players,” Hooper said.

“The Welsh are always good on the ball, they're always trying to slow that ball down, get turnovers, and they've had some success against us in previous years.”

Fifty-Test backrower Ben McCalman was strong over the ball in Japan and Hooper said he would be a valuable addition off the bench, in his second Test back from a broken scapula.

Ben McCalman was instirumental for the Wallabies in that famous pool game against Wales. Photo; Getty ImagesMcCalman pulled off two try-saving efforts against Wales in the Rugby World Cup, with the Wallabies down to 13 men, something Hooper remembers clearly.

“I think Ben’s been fantastic,” he said.

“He’s had a really hard time of footy over the past eight months, just because of his injury, the way he’s taken to coming back to the group and adding not just joining, has been terrific.

“Big games have big moments, you see it in all sports.

“A lot of guys are NFL fans and they see these one big plays that can change and put you on a course.

“The boys were under the pump (in that 2015 game), and they found a way and that's sometimes what you have to do in big Test matches against quality teams,which the Wales team is, you have to find an extra gear.”

Australia take on Wales on Saturday November 11, kicking off at 5:15pm local, Sunday 4:15am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.