Returning ... David Pocock. Photo: Getty Images
CARDIFF: The Wallabies are banking on the fresh legs and the physicality of David Pocock and Tatafu Polota-Nau to fight fatigue and get them home against Wales in their 15th and final Test this year.
After the side effects of a torrid year almost scuppered an Australian victory in Florence last week, Robbie Deans and the Wallabies' medical staff have gone for a delicate balance between topping up energy levels and maintaining the mental engagement crucial to convincing Wallabies' performances. ''We've done what we can, we think we've managed the week appropriately,'' Deans said. ''It's good to have a player like [Pocock] back to us because he will bring a real energy and enthusiasm, having had to watch for a while. But we'll find out.''
The trademark physicality of Pocock (pictured) and Polota-Nau comes just in time to cover the loss of imposing second-rower Sitaleki Timani, who is suspended.
No.8 Wycliff Palu said the team knew they had to muster the same intensity they took into the Tests against England and Italy - in the first half at least. ''That's what got us the game last week and probably won us the game,'' he said.
''[Timani's] going to be a big loss for us, I love playing with him and seeing him in the [defensive] line there, but with [Polota-Nau] starting he's going to add a lot more physicality, so I don't think we'll lose too much.''
Pocock's first start since injuring his knee in August is double-edged, lending freshness but also carrying risk. Blindside breakaway Scott Higginbotham made an impact in his first Test after a three-week suspension but will, by Deans's words, be ''better for it'' this week. Pocock has one opportunity to get it right on Saturday night. There is no next week for the former captain.
Wales coach Warren Gatland named captain Sam Warburton in the starting No.7 jersey, with fellow loose forward Justin Tipuric on the bench. The Wallabies are expecting Wales to attack ferociously at the breakdown.
''To have [Pocock] in an area that's going to be a big part of the encounter is good,'' Deans said. ''We've lost [Timani], it's good to have lock Kane [Douglas] back, but it's going to be a physical game. They're going to try to hide the ball, so to speak, and David's a bloke that brings a lot of pressure to bear in that area.''
Polota-Nau's inclusion at hooker, after Deans rested him last week, is also designed to help gain ascendance early against Wales.
''One [way] is to deny them access [to the ball] early, you saw New Zealand do that last week and Samoa the week before,'' Polota-Nau said. ''If you deny them that quick early access it will be a fair gain in terms of shutting them down.''
The ball-running capabilities of the Waratahs hooker will also be crucial in partnership with Palu and Higginbotham. Palu and Polota-Nau stressed the importance of retaining possession under pressure.
''You can describe it like a little pressure-cooker,'' Polota-Nau said. ''Keep the pressure on them down in their half and make sure they're the first to snap.''
There is also a rich vein of emotion available to the Wallabies during this Test match. Captain Nathan Sharpe will play his final Test and fullback Berrick Barnes will play his 50th. Deans has been careful to acknowledge the significance while keeping the impact in check.
Wales will not be lacking motivation either after six losses on the trot and a sniff of potential after scoring two tries - one off a 13-man lineout - during the final 30 minutes against New Zealand last week.
Deans said he expected more Gatland-brand creativity because the Welsh were ''desperate to win'', leaving the Wallabies to want it more in the first instance and go after it with a combination of precision and intensity in the second.
''You meet [their desperation], you can't avoid it and hope to succeed,'' Deans said.
''You've got to match it and then bring something of your own … We know they'll throw everything at us, we're going to have to concentrate from the first to the last minute. Quick taps are a big part of their game, quick throws will be as well. We've seen that in recent times, we've seen it in June and we'll see it again this weekend.''