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Wallabies ‘itching’ to play

Itching to get underway, the Wallabies have completed their final hit-out before Sunday’s Rugby World Cup opener against Italy in Auckland.


The Wallabies came through their captain’s run on Saturday unscathed and can’t wait to get stuck into the Azzurri at North Harbour Stadium.

“The whole group’s pretty excited that the tournament has actually come around and it’s probably the end of a bit of speculation and more about doing,” flanker Rocky Elsom said.

“Now is the opportunity to put it on the table. That’s always what you’d prefer, rather than to talk about it.”

Centre Anthony Faingaa, who has retained his place in the backline despite the availability of utility James O’Connor following the completion of his one-match ban, says hot competition for spots has helped wash away any sense of complacency in the Australian camp.

Faingaa knows coach Robbie Deans could have easily reinstated the goalkicking O’Connor on the wing and moved Adam Ashley-Cooper back to outside centre.

“That’s why we become better players; having guys chasing right behind you makes you become a better player,” Faingaa said.

“It also keeps you on your toes the whole time. It creates a healthy culture.

“There are three or four guys who could play No.13 for us: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, guys who have all played No.13 for Australia.

“So for me, it’s just focusing on doing my best each week. You want that healthy competition. It’s going to help the team grow and it’s going to make the team better.”

The 11th-ranked Italians upset France in this year’s Six Nations tournament in Rome, but coach Nick Mallett is playing down his side’s chances of springing a World Cup boilover.

He said the Azzurri pushed the issue in their 23-12 loss to Scotland in a friendly last month in Edinburgh and a repeat of that would be fatal against the second-ranked Wallabies.

“I definitely felt in that game we were trying to play too much rugby in our own half,” Mallett said.

“We made a hell of a lot of unforced errors against Scotland and I think we gave away 12 to 15 points from our mistakes.

“So obviously we can’t afford to do that against a side like Australia, who will punish you severely if you make errors anywhere on the field, but especially in your own half.

“Obviously we’re hoping to avoid giving them too many opportunities to score off our mistakes.

“If they score because they’ve played really well, then that’s a different matter altogether.

“But we’d like to try and avoid handing them tries on a plate like we did against Scotland.”