History will have no bearing on match, warns Sharpe
PARIS (AFP) –
Australia’s impressive run of form over France will have no bearing when the two sides come face-to-face at the Stade de France on Saturday, according to Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe.
The Wallabies will be bidding to stretch their winning run over a youthful France side to a record-equalling six successive matches since 2008.
And history is certainly running against Les Bleus, with five of Australia’s eight wins in France having come from the last six appearances in Paris, with the 14-27 loss in 2004 the Wallabies’ sole defeat in the French capital going back to 1993.
But Sharpe, capped 112 times, insisted that harking on about history was “irrelevant”, notably any reference to the two sides’ last outing in 2010 when Australia ran out 59-16 victors in a rout.
“It’s been irrelevant for us,” the Western Force lock said. “There’s a lot of new guys in this group.”
Sharpe added: “Teams around the world have traditional strengths and this French team is no different. They have flair out wide, they have a strong forward pack.
“You only have to look at how they played in their last couple of games, in Argentina, they mauled a lot, they’re going to be very combative and confrontational. That’s what we’re expecting.
“You never go into games worrying about what’s happened beforehand.”
Referring back to that 2010 match, in which the now-injured James O’Connor notched up 29 points, Sharpe was adamant.
“There’s no doubts the way the game ended last time won’t happen again,” he said. “France are a very proud nation, it’s going to be a tight game, whichever way it goes.
“We know we’ve got to work hard.”
The 34-year-old Sharpe is Australia’s fourth captain this season following injuries to James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia. Horwill and Genia missed this tour completely but Pocock is expected to be fit for next weekend’s match against England.
“It’s irrelevant,” Sharpe said of any problems of the changing captaincy.
“Everyone who’s been involved in high-quality teams know there’s a core of leaders that at any day can take that position.
“If that’s the best role for me in the team at the moment then that suits me. Either way it doesn’t bother me or David.”
The towering lock also picked out positives amid all the injury news, claiming that the blooding of younger squad members had not only provided valuable experience but also strengthened the playing quality to a degree that senior players could properly recuperate.
“That’s a good thing and a bit of a by-product of what we’ve been through is those guys coming back and not having to be rushed back into it,” he said.
“Some younger guys have had exposure and have done very well. That’s good for Australian rugby and that’s why this year has been important because whilst we haven’t had a great result in terms of keeping guys on the field, we’ve encouraged and brought a lot of young guys through that are going to gain a lot of experience from that.”