Wallabies taking confidence from Welsh in Lions

Australian Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper says that a British and Irish Lions name a team packed with Welshmen will give them confidence after their recent run against Wales.

The British and Irish Lions are coached by Wales coach Warren Gatland and captained by Wales captain Sam Warburton and a healthy contingent of Welshmen are expected in the starting line up for the first Test.

The Wallabies have a 6-0 record against Wales in the past 19 months, including a four-test sweep last year.

Fifteen of the original 37-man Lions squad chosen by Wales coach Warren Gatland were from his side.

More than half the Lions starters Saturday in Brisbane are expected to include Welshmen led by captain Sam Warburton, halfback Mike Phillips, prop Adam Jones, winger George North and fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

“We’re expecting a large Welsh contingent in the team on the weekend and we played them a couple of times last year and got the win,” Hooper said Wednesday.

“We’ve had the luxury of playing them six times in the last two years and a few times last year so it can’t hurt.”

But Hooper, who could be at No. 7 when the Wallabies side is announced Thursday, also said the Lions will have the edge in recent match fitness because of their six tour games ahead of the Brisbane test, including its first loss, a 14-12 loss to the Brumbies on Tuesday in Canberra.

“Maybe a little one at this level,” Hooper said. “They’ve obviously been playing for a couple of weeks.

“But we’ll be fresh and once we hit the ground we’ll be ready to go.”

The Wallabies, meanwhile, have had an extended three-week training camp following 14 rounds of Super Rugby.

The Wallabies and Lions will play the second test on June 29 in Melbourne and the third in Sydney on July 6.

Australia havn’t been sharp in season-opening tests the last two years, losing to Samoa in 2010 and Scotland last year.

The Lions, who tour every four years, haven’t won a series since 1997, including a 2-1 loss on their last visit to Australia in 2001.

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