Wallaroos ready for Sydney litmus test

Womens International
by Sarah Friend

The Wallaroos are ready to stand up to the world number one Black Ferns on Saturday.

That's the view of Wallaroos assistant Moana Virtue, days out from their Laurie O'Reilly Cup clash at ANZ Stadium.

New Zealand has won all 15 Tests between the two countries in the past but Virtue said Australia simply needed to embrace the task in front of them.

"It’s going to be a challenge but we’re up for it, and we need to be," she said.

"We want to know where we stand and where we need to be.

"What we’ve seen so far, we’re pretty excited about."

The Kiwis are one of the most-experienced sides in the world and their cohesion makes them a major set piece threat.

Virtue said the contest in the set piece would show that most acutely.

“It doesn’t matter who they put out there they’re going to be awesome, so I think it’s important that we worry about ourselves and getting our patterns and everything right," she said.

"Set piece is probably our key thing because New Zealand are really good at it, so it’s just making sure when we do have the ball we keep it, so that’s been a big focus.

"We want to be resilient in that area but the only way you can do that is actually meet that level."

Virtue, who has coached a handful of Queensland stars and Wallaroos at Queensland's Sunnybank club, said the coaching team was looking to the players to set cultural standards.

“We’ve got a leadership group that push a lot of our standards and we always have chats about plays and what we want to create," she said.

"Everyone has a voice in this team it doesn’t matter how old or young or how long you’ve played everyone can speak up and that’s the sort of culture we want to try and create.”

On a personal level, Virtue has been a trailblazer for female coaches and this week's trans-Tasman Test will be another big feather in her cap.

Virtue was the first woman in almost two decades to complete an elite coaching qualification when she received her level three accreditation.

With her elevation into the Wallaroos assistant job, she became the only woman in Australia to be in the coaching setup of the national teams.

Virtue said she hoped her journey would show other women considering coaching that the route is there.

“I’ve had a lot of good feedback and it’s just good to have a female coach out there and I’m pretty stoked because it’s good pathway for coaches as well, just for all the young ones coming through," she said.”

The Wallaroos will name their team later on Thursday, but are still sweating on the fitness of centre Sarah Riordan, who was felled in a freak training injury on Wednesday.

The Wallaroos take on the Black Ferns  for the Laurie O'Reilly Cup from 5:15pm AEST at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, 18 August, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. The Wallabies also host the All Blacks in the first Bledisoe Cup game, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST. LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.