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Wallaroos ready for Wales forward battle

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With an automatic World Cup quarter-final berth on the line, the Wallaroos are bracing for a giant battle up front when they take on Wales in Whangarei in their final pool game on Saturday.

Both teams go into the match on four points with a win and a loss from their first two pool matches, while unbeaten hosts New Zealand sit on 10 points.

The top two teams advance automatically to the playoffs, while the best two third-placed sides among the three pools also make the quarter-finals.

The Australians edged Scotland last Saturday after Lori Cramer converted a 72nd-minute try by Ashley Marsters for a 14-12 victory.

Reserve hooker Marsters will miss Saturday’s crunch game through suspension after she was sent off soon after for a high tackle.

Fellow hooker Adiana Talakai followed although she escaped a ban for her high shot from the judiciary.

Wallaroos assistant coach Scott Fava said the team had done extra work on their tackle technique this week to avoid more disciplinary trouble.

“From a defensive viewpoint, and as the defence coach, all the girls need to be aware that we need to lower our tackle height and we’ve worked hard on that,” the former Wallaby said.

“Ash has borne the brunt of that and she’s going to be sorely missed by the team.

“It’s attention to detail, particularly when you’re fatigued … it comes down to technical awareness but also training in those conditions and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

Wales are coming off a 56-12 loss to the Black Ferns, but Fava was impressed with their set piece and predicted that was where the Welsh, led by veteran lock Siwan Lillicrap, would try to get the upper hand.

“There’s no doubt they scrum and maul for tries and that’s a big area. Their set piece is massive,” he said.

“It’s going to be a battle; they’re really physical in that area and showed up New Zealand many times in those areas which contributed to them getting field position.

“I back our forward pack. They know what the challenge is and they’re going to be in a really good position to put Wales to the test in those set piece areas.”

The Wallaroos have also identified Jasmine Joyce as a danger despite the Welsh Olympics Sevens star being starved of many attacking opportunities so far.

“Out wide they’ve got Jasmine Joyce, who is a really good player, fast and good on her feet. If we give her time and opportunity with the ball, then she can hurt us,” Fava said.

“We’re coming up against a wounded Wales team but we were in the same position last week after playing New Zealand.

“They’re a really good team so we’ve got to be aware that the battle’s going to taken up front.”

-AAP



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