Wallaroo Kaitlan Leaney is confident her side can right its lineout wrongs and help unleash Australia’s backline ahead of Saturday’s clash with France at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Australia enters Week Two of the inaugural WXV1 tournament as rank underdogs following a 35-point loss to England punctuated by nine lineout errors.
It’s a damning statistic and one Leaney is eager to rectify as the Wallaroos prepare for another stern set-piece challenge from Les Bleus.
“Obviously got to give credit where credit’s due – England’s number one in the world for a reason and their strong point is their set piece – so we knew going into the game they were going to put a lot of pressure on us,” Leaney told rugby.com.au.
“In terms of our lineouts, we didn’t execute what we wanted, and we’ve come out of the game quite disappointed in ourselves because we knew we let our team down and the backs couldn’t play off our lineout attack.
“They (England) mirrored us well so some of the calls we made we didn’t back as much as we wanted to - just simple things like our drill and execution, some of our throws were too low, our lift wasn’t at max – but we’ve reviewed it and parked that game. Moving forward for the week, we’re just fixing what we can and we’ll be better for it.”
While Australia can take pride in a vastly-improved second half performance against England, Wallaroos assistant coach Sione Fukofuka knows they’ll need to be on song from the get-go against France.
The French set piece excelled in Les Bleus’ 18-17 upset win over New Zealand last week with Fukofuka also noting their defensive pressure, both in general play and at the ruck contest.
“We recognise our lineout set piece wasn’t up to standard, they (England) put us under pressure and we unfortunately gave England bonus possession they were then able to play off,” he told rugby.com.au.
“Our discipline was another area we identified as one to really focus on. We gave away a number of penalties early which then gave England access and obviously they were able to exploit that and put us under pressure.
“They (France) work so hard – defensively they swarmed and put New Zealand under a lot of pressure both with the ball in play but also at the breakdown. The French defence was able to keep turning up and keep working for each other, so we understand the challenge we have this week.
“Obviously they’re confident after beating the world champions but at the same time we’ve identified some opportunities that we feel, if we’re good enough to execute with our possession and our field position, we’ll be able to take advantage of.”
Winger Desiree Miller shapes a player who’ll look to take full advantage after seizing her debut with both hands against the Red Roses.
The Waratahs flyer made two breakdown steals and carried strongly when called upon to replace the injured Maya Stewart. Miller now appears likely to retain that wing berth.
“(We’re) really excited this week in Dunedin to play under the roof. We know it’s made for attacking rugby and both sides have that attacking rugby intent, so it should be a really close contest and a really exciting one,” Fukofuka said.
“In terms of selection, Lori Cramer is on track with her return from injury, and we’ve got Mel Wilks who is pushing pretty hard but at this stage it looks like Desi Miller will front up into that starting 14 jersey.
“She did a really good job coming on once Maya was injured and took to the game like a bit of a natural.”
The Wallaroos will announce their match-day 23 to face France on Thursday.