Nathan Sharpe will farewell the Wallabies after this tour. Photo: Getty Images
WALLABIES coach Robbie Deans says he is conscious of but not obsessed with protecting Australia's top-four ranking during the spring tour of the northern hemisphere.
The Wallabies on Saturday jetted out for Paris for next weekend's tour opener against France, the first Test of a tough schedule that will include dates with Italy, England and Six Nations champion Wales.
Ranked second behind World Cup holder New Zealand, the Wallabies head overseas knowing that they need a good tour to protect their seeding for the 2015 World Cup, the draw for which will be made based on rankings on December 3.
England, France and Wales are fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, with any team outside the protected top four facing the possibility of a dreaded early showdown with the all-powerful All Blacks.
Asked whether the Tests would carry extra significance because of the fact World Cup seedings were up for grabs, Deans said: ''Seedings are important, but no more so than the fact they are Test matches.
''That's the byproduct - we won't be dwelling on that fact.
''In the background, I guess we're conscious of the fact it's an important stretch.''
This makes the opening tussle against the French at Stade de France (Sunday, November 11 AEDT) all the more important.
Buoyed by their last-start 18-18 draw with the All Blacks in Brisbane, Deans said the meeting with Les Bleus would set the tone for the tour.
''The first one is key for us,'' Deans said at Sydney Airport ahead of the side's departure.
''The French have already expressed how important it is to them. We're playing on Armistice weekend, so history suggests they will play out of their skins on that basis.
''And it's our first outing, so it's very important that we get off to a good start.
''If we do, it will be a real fillip for the group.''
Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe - on his final tour before retirement - said he was looking at exiting on a high by going through the tour undefeated.
It would be a significant achievement considering Australia has not had an unbeaten four-Test spring tour since 1996.
''It doesn't happen very often,'' Deans said of perfect tours.
''That's obviously what we aspire to - we'll enter every Test looking to win it.'' AAP