Wallabies bracing for 'beefed up' French pack
The stage is set for the clash of the titans with the Wallabies bracing for a beefed-up France forward pack in the second Test on Tuesday night in Melbourne.
While the Wallabies have included heavy-hitter Taniela Tupou as their starting tight-head for the AAMI Park match, he will be dwarfed by French debutant Wilfrid Hounkpatin.
A genuine man mountain, Hounkpatin stands 192cm and weighs in at 132kg, with France coach Fabien Galthie bringing in five new forwards as they look to steamroll their way to a series-levelling win.
France’s failure to kick the ball out after 80 minutes effectively cost Les Bleus their first victory on Australian soil in 31 years, with the Wallabies notching a 23-21 win.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper expected the visitors to be stung by the opening loss at Suncorp Stadium and bring plenty of emotion into game two.
“Obviously they’re going to take it up another level this week,” Hooper said on Monday.
“They’ve made five changes up front and they’re going to be bringing a hell of a lot of emotion and physicality to this game.
“It’s a lot of weight up front with both teams so it’s going to be a great contest.”
Tupou produced a barn-storming performance off the bench to help turn the match Australia’s way, with a starting role his reward from coach Dave Rennie in the only change to the match-day 23.
He replaces Allan Alaalatoa in the number three jersey.
Hooper said it would be a different challenge for Tupou, affectionately known as “Tongan Thor”, who has only started in six of 26 Tests.
“We’re going to be seeing a bit of back and forth with that position – Allan is an established world class prop and Taniela does what he does which is world class as well,” Hooper said.
“But it’s a different challenge, coming off the bench is a different look to starting.
“We know the French are coming in hot when it comes to set piece, it’s something they pride themselves on, so our full eight has a responsibility there.”
Hooper said while they scrapped to an important win, the team recognised that they needed to improve dramatically with errors and missed tackles allowing the French to skip out to an early 15-0 lead.
“We want to improve significantly this week and we’ve focused a lot on that … where we think we can hurt these guys, we think we’ve got so much more in us,” Hooper said.
“We’ve got to back our skill set and we think we can do some damage.”
Meanwhile, the opening Test victory has seen the Wallabies jump up in the world rankings from seven to five.
Australia overtook France, who dropped from fifth to sixth, and Wales, who slumped from sixth to seventh with their 20-20 draw with Argentina in Cardiff at the weekend.
World champions South Africa still hold top spot.
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