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A try for the ages lights up a thrilling opening weekend of Six Nations rugby as Scotland, Ireland and France register away wins

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Wallaroos out to do the impossible against World Cup favourites Red Roses

By AAP
Grace Hamilton. (Photo by Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Wallaroos feel back-to-back wins over Northern Hemisphere rivals Scotland and Wales has been the perfect preparation to tackle Rugby World Cup heavyweights England.

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The Australian women take on the world number one side on Sunday in Auckland in a quarter-final showdown, looking to end a 28-game winning streak that dates back to July 2019.

In England’s last pool match, a 75-0 romp against South Africa, they scored 12 of their 13 tries through the forwards so taking on other forward-powered teams has the Wallaroos primed according to to lock Kaitlan Leaney.

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“It’s been good having Scotland and Wales in the prep for our England game because they’re similar in the way they play, where they focus on set-piece,” the 22-year-old Waratahs lock said.

“We’ve been working really hard on defending that so I think each week we’re getting better and showing that we can shut that down.

“It’s exciting that we’re building each week and every game we’re getting better and we can see in review that we’re leaving so many opportunities out on the field so hopefully we can go out there and show them what the Aussies are made of.”

Assistant coach Sione Fukofaka said the part-time Wallaroos felt excited by the opportunity to test themselves against the world’s best, who have full-time rugby contracts.

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They have continued to take steps with their gritty 13-7 win over Wales the first time the Wallaroos had banked successive wins since 2019.

He urged the underdogs to play without fear as they did in the opening World Cup game, when they raced to a 17-0 lead over hosts New Zealand in front of a huge Eden Park crowd before being reeled in.

“It’s a massive privilege to come up against a team of that quality,” Fukofaka said on Tuesday.

“We don’t get to play England very often so embracing that opportunity is a massive part of this week.

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“We talked about this against New Zealand at Eden Park – the pressure is all on the other team with the record coming in so we can play with a bit of freedom and hopefully start the game in a similar fashion.”

They have studied France’s pool performance against England, with the Red Roses forced to scramble to a 13-7 victory.

Fukofaka said the Australians needed to improve their conversion rate from inside 22 and continue to nail their set piece, but believes the signs are good.

“We’ve always felt if we can keep our standards high and play to our strengths, that we give ourselves an opportunity and the more games we play against quality opposition, clearly we are improving,” he said.

“Having the opportunity to play England who have the 28-game win streak in a quarter-final is a massive occasion and you saw in the opening game the girls relish those opportunities.”

– Melissa Woods

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