Wallabies back Wales for 6 Nations


Rugby: Wales have received a ringing endorsement of their 2009 RBS 6 Nations title credentials from Australia coach Robbie Deans.

New Zealander Deans voiced his admiration for the reigning Six Nations champions after they toppled the Wallabies 21-18.

And he backed Wales to once again shine in European rugby's showpiece tournament following a November tour when Australia beat England, France and Italy.

Deans fielded 13 of the side that recorded Australia's biggest victory over England at Twickenham since 1984, while 10 were involved in Paris, yet Wales proved a test too far.

"We feel Wales are better equipped going into the Six Nations than the other sides we've played," said Deans.

"You don't pick up a Six Nations title easily. Since the (2008) Six Nations, their conditioning has improved and their collective understanding has improved.

"It was a very good performance and pretty much what we expected. It was everything that we anticipated. They are playing good rugby, playing with ambition.

"They are looking to play on the tackle line and to use their width.

"Defensively, they really push the boundaries and make your life difficult, and that's been evident throughout the year.

"They have good running lines and work hard at playing a better game of rugby.

"Evidently, in the last three weeks, they have challenged the southern hemisphere nations and I'm sure (head coach) Warren Gatland wants them to continue to do that up to the 2011 World Cup.

"Wales will obviously take a lot of belief out of being the only side to have tipped over a southern hemisphere team (in November). It all adds to what they've got."

A Wallabies win would have completed their first unbeaten European Test trip for 12 years, and they were only narrowly denied after matching Wales 2-2 on tries through touchdowns from lock Mark Chisholm and wing Digby Ioane.

Had dazed skipper Stirling Mortlock not been forced off inside three minutes, then it might easily have proved a different story.

And Deans delivered an upbeat verdict following a memorable Millennium Stadium occasion as his squad now head to Wembley for Wednesday's London Olympic Centenary Match against the Barbarians.

He added: "The whole experience of this tour has been fantastic for us.

"It was just a privilege to play rugby at the Millennium Stadium - it is a credit to the nation," he insisted.

"We have played at some great arenas this year, but while we came up short on this occasion, the blokes will be better for the experience."

Flanker Phil Waugh, who took over as captain after Mortlock went off, insisted the skipper's absence did not unduly affect the Wallabies' performance.

Waugh said: "I thought the guys were pretty composed, considering.

"Obviously, Stirling has been a big part of the team for a number of years, and he had played every minute of this tour.

"Considering that loss, I thought we did pretty well."