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Stephen Moore shrugs off previous poor starts to season for Wallabies

Leading the way: New Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore sets the pace  at training.

Leading the way: New Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore sets the pace at training. Photo: Getty Images

There is a small but irritating fly in the ointment heading into the Wallabies' bid to notch five Test wins in a row for the first time since 2008.

Australia have dropped their first Test of the season for the past three years. Even more alarming for the warm favourites against France, is they have done so in the most inexplicable of circumstances.

It was Samoa in 2011, a four-tries-to-two ambush in front of incredulous fans in Sydney. In 2012 it was Scotland in hellish conditions, when Newcastle's Hunter Stadium felt more like a battlefield from Celtic lore.

Stephen Moore at the Wallabies camp at Sanctuary Cove.

Stephen Moore at the Wallabies camp at Sanctuary Cove. Photo: Chris Hyde

And last year against the British and Irish Lions? Let's just say Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will be personally overseeing the inspection of his team's boots in the dressing room of Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. Long studs will be the order of the day, unlike those worn by Kurtley Beale last year when he slipped while attempting a penalty that would have won the game for Australia. 

New captain Stephen Moore was not aware of his side's vulnerability to opening-night jitters when it was put to him on Friday.

"There's all sorts of factors but I haven't seen it as a pattern and I don't think it has any bearing on [Saturday]," Moore said.

"I'd like to think what's important is how we've prepared this week and that we go in with a bit of confidence that we can play well."

What the Wallabies have been thinking about is aggression and France's penchant for the offload. Although the demands of the first week in camp limit in-depth work, defence has been prioritised, with an emphasis on the physical battle.

"The French, particularly, have a big offloading focus in their game. They like to play the game on their feet and keep the ball alive with offloads and they can really get in behind you quickly," Moore said.

"First we have to defend well around the ruck, but then we have to defend those offload channels really well and make sure we're not giving them that opportunity to get on the front foot.

"It's been a challenge to only have a few days to get it all together but, with everything this week, we've tried to keep it pretty simple."

The Wallabies are under strict instructions to stay on the lawful side of the physical contest, to prevent a repeat of the 2008 dust-up that left James Horwill with a black eye and two French players suspended.

Moore was in amongst it that day at Suncorp Stadium but believes his players can keep their cool.

"That sort of just flared up a little bit, Kev [Horwill] was the one that came off the worse out of all that and he's been reminding me all week that he came in to save me," he said.

"I think you have to win the physical contest – that's scrums, maul defence, breakdowns, all those areas of the game.

"The foul-play side of it has really gone out of the game to a large degree now. When I've played France the last couple of times, I don't think that's been a problem."

The Wallabies will also be hoping to recapture that winning feeling at a ground they have come to regard as the spiritual home of their team.

Last year, Suncorp Stadium was not the comfortable backyard patch it had come to represent for the side.

First there was the British and Irish Lions disappointment, then came the Springboks bloodbath.

"That game and the one in Sydney last year [against the All Blacks] were particularly disappointing because, in that competition, you have to win your home games," Moore said of a disastrous Rugby Championship campaign.

"Most of the guys here have pretty good memories of playing [in Brisbane] overall. We're at home, that's important for us, and I've tried to limit talking about disappointing moments.

"I really would prefer to focus on the positives wherever possible and you have to do that at the start of the season, to go in with confidence."

Best not to mention, then, Moore's last match at Suncorp Stadium, when he was heckled off the pitch after punching Queensland Reds back-rower Ed Quirk.

"That's part of the game, there are passionate fans up there," he said, adding he hoped Queenslanders had forgiven him.

"I'd forgotten that. I hope the fans up there had forgotten it but I'm sure they still remember it ... I spoke to Quirky after it and we put it to bed so that's where it ended for me."
 

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