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Ewen McKenzie avoids Grand Slam hype
October 21, 2013
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie unveils his new 40-man squad, Sydney, July 26, 2013
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie remains wary of Grand Slam talks after the Wallabies suffered another loss © Getty Images
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England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Everybody loves hyping up a good old fashioned November Tour Grand Slam - however unlikely. Well, everybody bar Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, that is. And who could fault him? After Saturday's All Blacks clash delivered him a fifth loss in his seventh outing as coach, McKenzie is looking no further than the Wallabies' first tour fixture against England on November 2.

Australia has only once beaten the four Home Nations to claim the Grand Slam - back in 1984 under coach Alan Jones and skipper Andrew Slack. Their last attempt in 2009 failed in just the second match when they drew 20-all with Ireland. A 2013 scalp would be sweet revenge for the Wallabies, as they lost a series against the British & Irish Lions in June and July.

And while McKenzie says his side will obviously aim to beat all four Home Nations - plus second-week opponent Italy - just don't mention the words "Grand Slam" to him.

"I'm not going to sit here and talk about Grand Slams," McKenzie said. "It's no different to scoring four tries to get a bonus point; you can spend your whole time worrying about it. There will be a point in time where it becomes worth talking about, but you've got to set it up right."

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The Wallabies will be taking a 32-man squad to Europe for the five-week tour. Forward Scott Fardy (eye) has reportedly recovered and Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring) was training again on Friday. However, the Wallabies still haven't heard from the IRB regarding ineligible winger Henry Speight, while winger Joe Tomane (hamstring) and inside centre Christian Lealiifano (ankle) will undergo medical checks this week.

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Sharpshooter Lealiifano was widely regarded as crucial to the side just a week ago. However, McKenzie now has other options to tinker with following flyhalf Quade Cooper's 100 per cent kicking display and Matt Toomua's breakout performance at inside centre in the 41-33 loss to New Zealand.

"You don't want anyone sitting there thinking they've got a mortgage on a spot," McKenzie said. "It actually didn't matter that Christian was injured, we were already taking him off and putting Toomua out there anyway to reinforce depth."

Australia's 33 points on Saturday broke the record for their highest score against the All Blacks in New Zealand. While it was still a loss, McKenzie feels the squad's combinations and structures have all trended enough in the right direction to have stolen a march on their northern hemisphere rivals.

"They're coming off club environments so we should hopefully have some edge," he said. However, he admits he's far from relaxed after the 3-0 Bledisloe Cup whitewash. "I'm continually anxious, I judge myself on winning, so I don't sit here comfortably and say that it's been easy, or relaxed at all. Far from it. But I don't want it to be easy, because if it was easy you wouldn't be in the job. Someone else would still be there."

© AAP
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