Wallabies to turn up heat on Gower - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies to turn up heat on Gower

By Darren Walton 12/06/2009 07:38:41 PM Comments (0)

Forget the big chill in Canberra, Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock was more intent on turning up the heat up on Craig Gower ahead of his eagerly-awaited Test rugby debut on Saturday night.

As the mercury plummeted to minus three degrees on Friday - the coldest June day in the national capital in 43 years - Mortlock warned Italy's supposed five-eighth saviour to be cool under pressure or suffer the consequences.

Mortlock famously taunted Sonny Bill Williams with "that's the way the big boys do it" after smashing the Barbarians' former NRL star at the Sydney Football Stadium last Saturday night and said fellow league convert Gower may also struggle to keep up to the pace and intensity of international rugby.

"The major difference at Test-match level is the lack of time that you have," Mortlock said.

"Also the increased physicality in general. But certainly time is a factor that you're very aware of and in particular as a ball-player and a decision-maker."

Mortlock, though, wasn't completely doubting Gower's ability to threaten the Wallabies' defence.

"He's played a lot of top-line rugby league and we're going into the game prepared that he'll play a pretty solid part in their attack," he said.

"From some of the footage we've seen, he has the ability to carry the ball to the line and he can play quite laterally as well.

"So we're aware of that. We'll be ready."

Nor is Mortlock underestimating the Italians - who have never beaten the Wallabies - as a whole, despite bookmakers offering the visitors a staggering 31 points start.

"That doesn't reflect our mindset going into this game at all. We're very aware of the Italians," he said.

"In particular, we're very wary of them at the set piece, what they bring to the breakdown, to the tackle area and also, I guess, there's a bit more of the unknown with Gower at 10."

Italy's South African coach Nick Mallett has gone public with the Azzurri's plan to pepper Australia's debutant fullback James O'Connor with high balls.

But Wallabies winger Lachie Turner, himself starting in only his third Test, has vowed to help O'Connor combat any aerial assault.

"Definitely Italy will look to target James and myself. The two of us are pretty inexperienced - only half a dozen Tests between us, or less," Turner said.

"Definitely they'll come at us, but we're pretty ready for that. We're looking forward to that challenge.

"James and I have been working well together all week and we're pretty excited about the added responsibility that will come with that.

"When anyone looks to target you throughout a game, you can either shy away or you can step up. And definitely I always enjoy it; it means that I'm going to have a role to play and that's why I play footy.

"If I didn't want that, I wouldn't be here. I'm excited about the prospect of getting my hands on the ball and having a fair bit of work to do and I know James is feeling the same."

The Wallabies completed their captain's run on Friday under lights at Canberra Stadium, due to the foggy, antarctic weather, and the forecast is for sub-zero temperatures for the match.

"It's pretty dam cold," Mortlock said. "But hopefully we can warm ourselves up by playing some good rugby."

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