Wallaroos keeping a lid on double header excitement

Womens International
by Sarah Friend

Walking into ANZ Stadium for the first time as a player gave Wallaroos captain Liz Patu goosebumps.

The stands were empty when the team did its walk-through on Friday and Patu couldn't help but think about the occasion that will await them on Saturday.

“For some of the girls it will be an amazing feeling to be in the stadium without everyone in here," she said.

"Even I had goosebumps walking in (today).”

It's hard to avoid the significance of Saturday's double header for the Wallaroos but Patu's role as much as anything else is to ensure the occasion doesn't get the better of them.

The Wallaroos are a day out from an historic Bledisloe double header. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“I’m nervous as well as confident that I can lead these girls out especially in front of our country, for our country," she said.

"They’re a tough team, they’re a good team but we have to focus on ourselves.

"Pretty much do our own, do our basics, do what we need to do to get over that gain line.

With nine debutants in their side, Patu said they had tried to keep everything as regular as possible.

“They do have a fair idea of what to expect," she said.

"It’s a tough one especially those girls who haven’t played in the international level of things. But they will do awesome, they’ll get out there and give it all they’ve got, and they’ll leave nothing in the tank I know that.”

With this level there’s another pressure, but all they need to do is get out there have fun and play the sport that we all love.”

The withdrawal of vice-captain Sarah Riordan due to an ankle injury was a blow to the side but Patu said Riordan had done her part off-field in the days since her mishap.

Sarah Riordan rolled her ankle in training. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“She has been talking to a few of the girls especially with her debuting in 2014 (it's important. She’s been amazing to the girls, supporting them," she said.

Debutant Crystal Maguire will take Riordan's place and Patu said she had full confidence in the new starter.

"Crystal will give as much as she can, she’s an amazing talented player and I have no doubt she’ll kill it on the field," she said.

The Wallaroos will be rank outsiders against the Black Ferns, who they've never beaten but Patu said that only fired them up more.

“We are the underdogs and it’s something that we look forward to going out there, and we love the challenge.

"We’re not going to take a backward step from it.

"It’s a new team, it’s a fresh team and I have no doubt that we could do the job we have set out for.”

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.