Must-win focus a "trap" for Wallabies: Haylett-Petty

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies need to disregard the must-win element of Saturday’s Test against Argentina if they want to avoid the Rugby Championship wooden spoon.

That’s the view of Test fullback Dane Haylett-Petty as the Wallabies began their preparations for Sunday’s Test against Argentina (AEDT).

There is little escaping the stakes of the Pumas clash - quite simply, a loss would relegate the Wallabies to last in the Rugby Championship and turn the heat on the side up even more.

Australia hasn’t ever finished last in the four-nation Rugby Championship and last finished on the bottom of its Tri-Nations predecessor in 2009.

However, Haylett-Petty said too much focus on how much they need a victory would be a 'trap' for the Aussies.

“We're definitely not happy about that (position) and we've definitely come here to win,” Haylett-Petty said.

“It's probably a bit of a trap to focus on 'We have to win, we have to win'.

“I don't think it's make or break. For us, we're not so much focusing on the outcome.

“We've got to make sure we're learning our lessons and getting better.”

There is no denying the external pressure on the team is as high as it’s been in recent memory but Haylett-Petty said they had to tune that commentary out.

“(It’s) probably easier for some people than others,” he said.

“I definitely try not to worry about the external noise and what's going on and it's probably easier maybe being away from home and being in camp altogether and being able to focus on each day and doing the things we need to do to be able to come out on the weekend and perform.”

Decisions under pressure have hurt the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship this year, whether in open play or set piece.

Skipper Michael Hooper was criticised for decisions to opt for scrums and lineouts in kickable penalty spots against the Springboks, choices that yielded no points for the Wallabies despite the side building pressure on the South Africans.

Haylett-Petty admitted at times there was a difficult dilemma for Hooper, with the Wallabies focused on trying to play a try-first style of rugby but backed his captain’s decisions in Port Elizabeth.

“For people and for ourselves, it's the way we've all grown up in Australia is playing that attacking style of rugby so it's definitely the way we want to play,” he said.

“I suppose it is probably a little bit of a dilemma for Hoops as the decision maker in that instance.”

“Definitely Hoops made the right decision on the weekend.

“I think everyone says, 'Oh maybe you should've taken the points,' if you don't come away with the points so I suppose Hoops will make a decision at the time on the field depending on how the game's going.”

Haylett-Petty said the Wallabies’ communication and composure had to improve in those moments to finally convert backline progress into actual points.

“Definitely composure (needs to improve). The defence has definitely improved a lot," he said.

“South Africa definitely put us under a lot of pressure on the weekend, blitzing in ‘D’ and so probably just composure in that part of the field.

“I suppose one part is just continuing to work on our skills under pressure, which we do pretty much every day.

“Part of it's decision-making, part of it's communication from everyone around the ball.”

Rebels centre Bill Meakes will join the squad in Argentina as a replacement for injured back Jack Maddocks, while Tolu Latu has already linked up with the team after Tatafu Polota-Nau returned to England with a hamstring concern.

Australia will stay in Buenos Aires until Thursday, when they fly to Salta for the Test.

The Wallabies take on Argentina in Salta on Sunday October 7 AEDT, kicking off at 9:40am AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Channel Ten.