Rugby round-up: De Villiers says there is no loss of identity on Wales

Timing looks to be working out for Italy against a weary Australia side while England tweak front row ahead of Argentina.

Jean de Villiers, centre, will try to protect South Africa’s impressive record against Wales. Stu Forster / Getty Images
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The South Africa captain Jean de Villiers has played down the presence of 11 successful British & Irish Lions in the Wales team ahead of a one-off international in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales players, with their coach Warren Gatland also at the helm, formed the backbone of the Lions team that took a 2-1 series win over Australia in the summer.

But De Villiers, who will be joined in midfield by the returning veteran Jaque Fourie, said: “We’re not playing the Lions, we’re playing Wales. It’s a big difference.

“You can take a lot out of the Lions series, but at the end of the day, it’s not the same team. There are players who played in that team, but there are also crucial players who played for the Lions side that are not in the Welsh side.

“In saying that, we believe the Welsh team is a quality side and that they’ll be up for this game.”

Wales have recorded just one victory over South Africa, in 1999, in 26 internationals stretching back 107 years.

Rob Howley, the Wales assistant coach, said his Lions veterans will enter the game with increased optimism.

“The confidence and self-belief that they had after the Lions tour was huge,” he said. “You can see a difference in their mindset. This week, the emotion from the players, in particularly the Lions players, has been different.

“There’s been a very positive mindset from the fact they’ve had a wonderful experience in the summer and obviously they need to bring that in the national jersey on Saturday.”

Dan Lydiate, the flanker, agreed, and said of previous results that have gone the way of either South Africa, Australia or New Zealand: “We’ve always come so close, it’s that last step.

“The Lions win can only help us and boost us going into these autumn internationals. You take confidence in being involved in such a squad.”

The Ospreys wing Eli Walker was a late withdrawal for Wales after pulling out with a hamstring injury, and his place taken by the Scarlets full-back Liam Williams.

De Villiers said his team are well prepared, arriving for their autumn internationals after finishing second behind the world champions New Zealand in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.

He hinted that the South Africans might alter their attacking game plan under the closed roof of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, in the face of the home side’s defensive strategy.

“It is a different challenge that we are facing tomorrow with the rush defence,” he said.

“They do it quite effectively and they’re good at it, so we need to change our attack a little bit, but hopefully we can exploit that rush defence and use it to our favour.”


Italy have a historic first victory over a wounded Wallabies side in their sights on Saturday, but remain wary of a backlash following Australia’s recent loss to England.

Italy’s growing status in the sport was on display in their impressive 2013 Six Nations campaign, which featured victories over France and Ireland and a narrow, seven-point defeat to England.

On paper, Italy, with the former Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel at the helm, could not be meeting the former two-time World Cup champions at a better time.

However, Brunel is not alone in thinking Ewen McKenzie’s side will emerge at Turin’s Olympic Stadium looking to make amends for a 20-13 defeat at Twickenham.

“You can’t say it’s the best time to be meeting Australia,” Brunel said.

“I’m sure that after last week’s defeat, which to me was quite unlucky, they will bring a lot of intensity and rhythm into this match.”

The statistics, however, suggest Italy have a real chance to claim what would be their first win over Australia in 16 attempts.

Having allowed England to overturn their 13-6 half-time deficit in London, Australia’s dreams of a five-test grand slam came undone at the first hurdle.

The pressure on McKenzie, who took over for Robbie Deans in July following Australia’s defeat to the British & Irish Lions, has only intensified.

He admits Italy will be a more formidable opponent than they were this time last year, when the Aussies held on to claim a 22-19 win in Florence.

“We’ve never had an easy game here in Italy, and even last year, they had a chance to tie the game after the final siren,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie has made only one change from the XV who started against England with Rob Simmons, known primarily as a lock, coming in at blind-side flanker to replace Scott Fardy, who is unavailable after suffering concussion last week.

Simmons’s inclusion is designed to add muscle to the set-pieces of the scrum and line-out: “Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He’s instrumental in us winning our own ball while we’ll be looking for him to put pressure on their line-out, and their scrum,” McKenzie said.


Elsewhere, the England coach Stuart Lancaster is ignoring the adage about not changing a winning side, choosing a new front row over the one that helped defeat Australia 20-13 last week when they face Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday.

David Wilson, Dylan Hartley and Joe Marler, who all came off the bench against the Wallabies, will start.

The Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said his side have long-term objectives.

“We’re building for the 2015 World Cup and the young players can learn from the more experienced ones,” he said. “We are going to be more offensive and attack England a little bit more than we usually do.”


Steve Hansen, coach of top-ranked New Zealand, said he will take nothing for granted when the All Blacks face France on Saturday, even after beating them three times in June.

“The first thing you’ve got to do with France is expect the unexpected,” he said.

“Plan for everything and once you’ve stopped planning for that, try to think outside the square and think about what else they’ll chuck at you, because that’s the way they are.

“They will turn up definitely with something different from what we got last time.

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