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Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden
Enough talk, already, start preparing Wallabies
Greg Growden
March 11, 2013
England did not impress against Italy
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Here they come. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. In a deliberate and somewhat tedious campaign, all we've heard in recent weeks is how the poor old Wallabies may suffer against the British & Irish Lions due to a supposedly poor preparation.

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Wallabies officials have been banging on about how powerful the Lions will be due to a better lead-up. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, the master of building up an opponent (just study his mutterings before virtually every Australia Test match), uttered: "There's no doubt that the Lions will have a huge advantage in terms of entering the series."

Then ARU boss Bill Pulver pushed the line that the Lions' preparation "compared to ours is chalk and cheese". "We've set [the Wallabies] up for a very difficult situation," the Pulveriser added.

There are plenty of reasons for blowing up and spitting all over the Lions balloon, which is the ARU's way to attempt to quell the anger of the Australian provinces - who are unimpressed that they will be without key players for a crucial part of the Super Rugby tournament because the Wallabies want to run a pre-Test camp. It is clearly being rammed down the throat of the provinces that Australian rugby will be humiliated in June and July if they don't toe the line. Whether this ploy will work is doubtful.

The ploy also has something to do with the Wallabies being concerned about what will be coming from the north. The Lions squad will be formidable, and a 3-0 series blot of the Wallabies is certainly not beyond them. So some of the wise heads in the ARU bunker must now be thinking: "Let's start stirring up some doubt now. So if we suffer a June disaster we can say 'told ya so'. And then we can conduct our usual ploy of blaming someone else."

My long-time mate Stephen Jones, of The Sunday Times newspaper fame, was so taken by all this recent Australian piffle that he ventured into Twitterland a few days ago.

The doyen is right!

Sure there's a lead-up Barbarians game in Hong Kong, but that's hardly a huge advantage. And to use Lions tour matches - including midweek fixtures - as the reason to state the tourists are near unbeatable is ridiculous. This will be the time when the next-best get their chance, while the matches against the Australian provinces will be an opportunity for the locals to bruise the visitors. Remember past Lions tours!

It is hardly one-way traffic for the Lions. There is so much value in the Lions-Australian province games for the locals and the Wallabies.

Also the Six Nations tournament cannot be used as a reason for the Lions to be so impossible to beat. Like the Super Rugby tournament, the Six Nations is a time when players can make themselves Test candidates, but it is not the time when Test combinations are formed; that is done only when the team gets together, not before.

Ireland slipped to a draw at home to France
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But the Wallabies brains trust can use the Six Nations series as a guide to know what to expect from the visitors. At least after the latest round of matches, they realise the Lions will come with plenty of reliable goal kickers. In a dour, dim round when only four tries were scored, we were treated to 25 penalty goals being kicked. Zzzzzz.

Maybe there's a Southern Hemisphere ploy already being used to disorientate the Lions before they head to Australia. Just get South African referee Craig Joubert to officiate more Six Nations matches, and he will turn everyone up north off the idea of even playing the game; Joubert is the ultimate rugby party pooper. He appears to have no interest in the spirit of the game, and has a dreadful knack of ruining important encounters through an unsympathetic, pedantic approach. The Scotland-Wales match was near impossible to watch due to Joubert's incessant and often unnecessary whistling.

Even more disconcerting is the fact he is rated international rugby's No. 1 referee. I'm scared to think what excuses international officials would come up with to explain that one.

They should ring the ARU for advice. After all, the ARU are excuse experts.

Wales maintained their hopes of retaining the Six Nations title with victory against Scotland
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