Deadly centres loom in Test

Will Genia (left) discusses tactics with coach Robbie Deans. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSON Adam Ashley-Cooper is more than happy to be on the wing against the All Blacks this weekend, predicting centres Rob Horne and Anthony Faingaa will have their hands full with the Sonny Bill Williams-Ma’a Nonu combination.
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Williams and Nonu, who both weigh in at more than 100 kilograms, will line up at inside and outside-centre respectively for New Zealand in tomorrow’s Rugby Championship game at ANZ Stadium.

It will be only the third time they have started a Test as a centre pairing and just the second occasion after last year’s World Cup clash with Tonga that they will line up in the same configuration as Saturday.

Utility back Ashley-Cooper started 13 successive Tests in the centres in 2010 and 2011 but has been restored to the back three for the past four games.

Asked if tomorrow was a good game to be playing on the wing, Ashley-Cooper chuckled and replied “Yeah, well I’d certainly prefer to be out there than in the midfield to contain those two.

“I think across the board, it’s still going to be a very tough job for us.

“They have got a really deadly attacking back three in the likes of Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear and Cory Jane.

“They played some really good football throughout the Super 15 and throughout the Ireland series.

“We just have to work as a unit because, if we don’t, they are going to expose us.”

Ashley-Cooper doubted the All Blacks’ centre pairing would lead to any significant change of approach from what he rated the world’s best backline.

“Every Test team has their generic attacking shape,” Ashley-Cooper said.

“I think with Sonny and Ma’a, they are some of the best midfielders in the game. Obviously, the combination of those two is fairly new.

“But that certainly won’t deter from the fact they are a great midfield pair and great inside backs.

“For us, Anthony Faingaa and Rob Horne, they have got a real job on their hands Saturday night.”

He was convinced Australia had the offensive spark to threaten New Zealand, despite the omission of five-eighth Quade Cooper.

Ashley-Cooper said the Wallabies would look to get the ball in the hands of halfback Will Genia, inside-centre Faingaa and fullback Kurtley Beale as much as possible.

He revealed Australia had worked hard on their tactical kicking and kick-chase game after being exposed by New Zealand in those areas in last year’s World Cup semi-final.

“Our kicks have got to be a lot more contestable and our kick-chase has got to be better,” Ashley-Cooper said.

“We’ve done a lot of work on that over the last couple of weeks and hoping that we apply a lot of pressure in that area on Saturday night.” AAP

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