Wallabies Smith enjoys French connection - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies Smith enjoys French connection

By Darren Walton 21/11/2008 09:32:44 PM Comments (0)

The Wallabies are wary of France hardman Sebastien Chabal performing the same talismanic role as the All Blacks' Richie McCaw and the Springboks' Schalk Burger when they face Les Bleus at Stade de France on Saturday.

Australian prop Al Baxter said Chabal's role is unique in the French set-up and the tourists must get to grips with him quickly if they are to dampen the hopes of the Paris crowd.

"He's obviously a player that they draw a lot of strength from, like Richie McCaw for the All Blacks or Schalk Burger for the Springboks," said Baxter.

"He's the kind of player who really is a leader for the side.

"We'll certainly be making sure we try and look after him but if we fully focus on him then their other players shine and you're in trouble."

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has made three changes to the XV that started at Twickenham, with blindside flanker Dean Mumm, 23-year-old Brumbies prop Ben Alexander and No.8 Wycliff Palu drafted into the pack in place of Mark Chisholm, Richard Brown and Benn Robinson.

Baxter praised Deans for his lesser-known role in improving the Wallabies' forward play since taking the reins in June.

Despite mixed results in the Tri-Nations over the summer, Baxter believes Deans' philosophy has greatly improved the effectiveness of Australia's pack, which silenced its English critics last weekend.

"He's given us a lot more freedom," said Baxter. "He's all about bringing your own skills and strengths to the game and using them, as opposed to playing under a formula or doing what someone else thinks you should do.

"It's allowed a lot of guys who previously weren't running with the ball or looking for big tackles to do that, because that's what they enjoy doing and that's what their strengths are.

"Under previous coaches we've had, (the scrum) was seen as a re-start to play as opposed to a contest, whereas certainly in the northern hemisphere it's seen more as a genuine contest."

The strength of the Wallabies scrum was evident last weekend in the 28-14 victory at Twickenham, but Baxter says his colleagues in the front eight cannot afford to get carried away with the praise heaped upon them following that success.

"We have more confidence in our scrum now but we certainly don't take any game for granted," he said.

"We know the French are a very proud scrummaging nation and have a good scrum, so it's going to be just as tough for us this weekend as last week."

One key component of the French scrum is Chabal, recalled to the side after starting from the bench in their 42-17 win against the Pacific Islanders in Montbeliard last weekend.

For all the focus on the forwards this week, though, Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell feels France's biggest threat is the attacking danger they present across the park.

"They're a lot more flamboyant (than England) and they have quite a lot of variety in their attack", he said.

"So we have to be on our toes with not only the physical game, but also the little kicks and the little changes of direction in play and all that sort of thing."

Australian skipper Stirling Mortlock will play his 75th Test, drawing level with Jason Little as the 10th most-capped player in the Wallabies' history.

For France, last weekend's 42-17 victory over the Islanders followed a narrow 12-6 win against Argentina, but coach Marc Lievremont knows the Wallabies will be an altogether different proposition.

"Australia are very strong, very solid and very brave," he said.

"They don't have many weaknesses and don't give points away. They are very hard to move around."

The last meeting between the sides saw Australia romp to a record 40-10 victory in Brisbane in July, but against a notably weakened French side.

France are unlikely to roll over quite so easily on home soil, where they are unbeaten against Australia in three meetings since 2000.

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