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'We want to end the tour on a high': Wallabies playing for pride against Wales

By Jack O'Rourke
Rob Valetini of the Wallabies reacts during The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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The Wallabies have their fate in their own hands as they prepare for a final showdown with Wales at Principality Stadium. A victory would see the Wallabies end a long season on a positive note after a disappointing tour so far. 

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Wallabies backrower Rob Valetini has vowed to bring the fireworks against the Welsh after ill-discipline and wayward attack marred the Wallabies games on their northern hemisphere tour so far. 

“We weren’t able to fire a shot, and as a playing group, we thought we let ourselves down with our discipline. It’s hard to win a test match away when we are giving away 18 penalties. 

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In The Know with Michael Cheika
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In The Know with Michael Cheika

It’s a new week this week. We want to end the tour on a high. [We will] review hard and try to prep well for this week and hopefully go out with a bang this Saturday.”

Staring at their first winless northern hemisphere tour since 1976, the Wales test looms as an important final game for the Wallabies if they are to keep the momentum going into 2022 after building some goodwill with a five-match win streak. 

“We want to put everything out there. We’ve had a tough year, a long year. We want to go out and put in a good 80-minute performance away from home. In front of a big crowd; something we can be happy with, and head back home and be happy.”

New recruit Ollie Hoskins joined the squad in the lead-up to the clash with England and has seen firsthand the influence that Dave Rennie has had on the group, instilling in the Wallabies a profound respect for each other built on culture. 

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“From someone who has come in towards the end of the tour, you can see how close the group is and how much they care for each other, and how much they are proud to represent their country. It’s massive for us as a playing group to make sure these guys hop on their plane back home with a sense of pride and people are happy with the effort they put in.”

“We have spoken about making sure we leave our stamp on the match and we play the brand of rugby that Australia is known for, and that worked so well for them earlier in the year. I haven’t got the long flight back to Australia to think about, I have a little car journey back home, but still, I would love to be part of the group that plays a brand of rugby they are proud of.”

It will be a chance to iron out discipline issues that have plagued the Wallabies in recent games. Valetini concedes they have no one to blame but themselves, and the team will be looking to right some wrongs in their final match up. 

“We thought some of the penalties we did were pretty dumb: offsides, high tackles, lifting tackles. The onus is on ourselves. We have a big thing around that, not giving away stupid penalties in critical games like that. That is something we have been working on during the week.”

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That job will become much harder with Wallabies talisman and frontrunner for World Rugby player of the year Michael Hooper being ruled out of the game with a foot injury, leaving a pivotal position for Dave Rennie to fill at openside flanker. James Slipper will captain the side against Wales, but the Wallabies will miss the work rate and on-ball expertise that Hooper provides. 

Pete Samu and Colby Fainga’a are both in line to take up the mantle, and Valetini has backed them both to make a big impact in one of the Wallabies key positions.

“Both have big confidence and [the playing group] trust that they will come in and do the job.”

Valetini’s own form for the Wallabies at the back of the scrum has been undeniable, following on from a standout season in Super Rugby. After a shaky start to begin the year, he has quickly become the first name on the team sheet thanks to his ability to bend the opponent’s defence and carry his team over the gain line. 

“I’m happy I have been able to translate my form from Super Rugby into test rugby. At the start of the year, I wasn’t finding my rhythm getting into it, so I’m happy to be playing Wallabies rugby. With all the competition in the back row, I’m just happy to be getting to play some minutes.” 

“I was a bit nervous at the start of the year. This was my first year starting even though I have been in the system for a bit. I was nervous coming off a good Super season and replicating that [at test level]. But then I had a good chat with Hoops. He said to ‘don’t hold back. Just let everything go and just play your game.’ I got that from a few of the boys. It sort of just happened and I started playing rugby.”

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