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Wallaroos captain expects a reaction from forwards after Canada demolition

By AAP
Michaela Leonard poses with team mates during an Australian Wallaroos captain's run at Sydney Grammar School on May 10, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Captain Michaela Leonard expects a reaction from the Wallaroos’ forward pack in their Pacific Four rugby clash against the USA after being dominated by Canada.

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The Australians lost 33-14 last round in Sydney with the Canadians scoring all five tries via the front row.

The Wallaroos meet the winless Americans at Melbourne’s AAMI Park on Friday afternoon in a vital clash, looking to again qualify for the top-tier WXV 1 competition in Canada in September and October.

The loser is set to finish last in the Pacific Four and will play in the WXV 2 league in South Africa.

Lock Leonard said her forwards had worked hard this week to improve on their showing against Canada.

“Definitely as a forward we take that one on the chin, and we probably own a little bit of that,” Leonard said after their final training run in Melbourne.

“We’ve done really well this week to shore up a few of our areas around set piece, particularly the scrum and around our maul defence and we want to make those weapons this week.

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“Lots of chat and lots of action towards becoming more physical, particularly the forwards as well so hopefully we’ll see that.”

Wallaroos 2023 player of the year Eva Karpani is back in the starting front row, with Leonard expecting her to add some punch both in attack and defence.

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“Eva is a phenomenally physical player, and we saw that through WXV, her power, carrying balls, scoring tries, but also in defence as well,” the Western Force star said.

“It’s exciting to have her back into the starting line-up this week and hopefully we’ll get some good punch and some good go-forward.”

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New Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp has named teenager Caitlyn Halse to start at fullback, with the 17-year-old the youngest player to debut in a women’s or men’s Australian Test side.

Leonard said the NSW youngster had shown she was ready.

“The growth and the development in Caitlyn over the last 12 months, being part of some of our Wallaroos campaigns last year and then coming into this year, she’s really matured as a player on the field and off the field,” the captain said.

“I think her composure on the field now and her ability to communicate has grown in leaps and bounds so I’m definitely excited for her to bring that out onto the field and then show what an attacking threat she can be with ball in hand as well.”

Captain Kate Zackary returns from injury for Team US, starting at blindside flanker while McKenzie Hawkins returns as five-eighth after missing their loss to New Zealand.

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Flankly 15 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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