Wallabies rely on Rays for Lions Test series warm-up
THE British and Irish Lions got five warm-up matches - Australia got the Sunshine Coast Stingrays.
The Wallabies' preparation for the upcoming Test series against the Lions was again questioned yesterday after the side was forced to engage in a full-contact training session with the Sunshine Coast Stingrays in an attempt to simulate match conditions.
The session took place on Tuesday at at Stockland Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Australia will go into the first Test at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on June 22 without playing a match this season.
Sunshine Coast-based former Wallaby Glenn Panoho - who played against the Lions when they last toured Australia, in 2001 - again voiced concern over Australia's barren game menu ahead of the three-Test series.
"I'd be a little concerned, personally," the ex-Stingrays coach said.
"They've (the Lions) got an opportunity to get their combinations right.
"We're going to be relying on any new combinations needing to click straight away."
Panoho's comments followed Lions coach Warren Gatland bemoaning what he described as the side's lack of warm-up matches and the substandard quality of the opposition.
However, the tourists will have played the Force, the Reds, Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country, the Waratahs and the Brumbies before the first Test.
The session against the Sting
rays, to be featured on Fox Sports Rugby HQ tonight, went for more than an hour, but there were no contested scrums.
It involved two separate full-contact simulated matches that were handled by Australian Rugby Union referee Ryan Hoffman.
Australia also tested its attack from various parts of the field, and its defence, and lineout and mauling drills were conducted.
The two sides are scheduled to train together again tomorrow, but it is understood it will not be full contact.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans described Tuesday's training run as a "valuable experience for us, allowing the opportunity to finetune aspects of our play against live opposition".
"Obviously, we don't have the opportunity to play a lead-up game … so the chance to prepare in a simulated game, with opposition providing resistance, was one we were happy to have as part of our camp program," Dean said.
Sunshine Coast coach John Rangihuna hopes the session will give the Stingrays a lift in their away clash against third-placed GPS on Saturday.
"Whenever you get the opportunity to do that, you grab it with both hands, and we're going to be the better for it," he said.
Rangihuna said the Lions should be worried.
"I think they (the Wallabies) looked very sharp," he said.