Palu expects Force to be danger at the breakdown

Wycliff Palu has been named in the Waratahs Super Rugby squad for 2016

Wallabies and Waratahs back rower Wycliff Palu says that he expects the Western Force try try and bully them at the breakdown in their Super Rugby opener on Sunday.

Palu says that if the Waratahs are to win the breakdown battle they will have to step up in the ball contest against the Force if the Sydney team’s trial against the Highlanders is an indicator.

Western Force coach Michael Foley places a high value on winning the breakdown so his team would have been expected to attack this area with great enthusiam but Palu expects added ferocity from the Perth side.

“They have a lot of South African guys in their squad now,” Palu told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“They are going to be a lot more physical – it’s going to be a pretty big test.”

“They will look at us and try and stop our back line . . . they (will) kind of bully us around. So it’s going to be one of those games.”

Palu said that how the Waratahs respond to the Western Force at the breakdown could also impact on how they are regarded in the future.

“We have talked about it a lot as a forwards pack,” Palu said.

“In past NSW sides, we have always been good at set piece and quite physical, but I think we have to be more consistent in the physical side of things.”

One of Michael Cheika’s main concerns has been the Waratahs physicality at the breakdown so the challenge from the Highlanders was well-timed for Sunday’s game.

“It was a good test,” Palu said.

“They stepped it up in the third quarter, their (play at the) breakdown and pressured us a lot, especially when we were attacking their quarter. It was good to get a game like that.”

Wallabies and Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper agreed with Palu and said that they prepared for the Highlanders game knowing: “they throw a lot of players into the ruck – and they did that.”

Hooper did however concede that the trial showed the Waratahs that,”(the breakdown) is probably an area we need to get better at because our halves got a bit touched. It is definitely an area for us to improve.”

“We want to play a running game, so holding on to the ball is paramount,” Hooper said.

“If they can disrupt us there it is going to be a tough day. The Force has a great back row in particular and a mobile tight five.

“We need to be on our game there and be able to shut them down at the breakdown.”

Hooper says that the key is, “nullifying it as soon as you can and getting the ball into the backs’ hands.”

The flanker admitted that it is easier said than done, “It’s about speed to the breakdown, urgency and finding our right shapes,” he said.

“Do that . . . the game will flow.”

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