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Wallabies off to a flying start

AUSTRALIA opened its international season in ominous fashion with a record 55-7 thumping of the Barbarians at the Sydney Football Stadium yesterday.

The Wallabies were never seriously challenged by a strong Barbarians side, which beat England last week, running in eight tries to one in a match that was played in the best traditions of Barbarian rugby.

Although the game was not an official test, the Australians signalled their intentions to lay down a marker for the season ahead, handing the famed invitational club their heaviest defeat against the major southern hemisphere teams.

"It's easy to look at the scoreboard and think it was some second-rate side but they weren't second-rate at all," Australia coach Robbie Deans told a news conference. "It was a great start to the season for us, there was some really good stuff."

Wing Drew Mitchell, who was picked at the expense of Lote Tuqiri, justified the selectors' faith in him with two tries while lock James Horwill, flyhalf Matt Giteau, hooker Stephen Moore and replacements Ben Alexander, David Pocock and James O'Connor all helped themselves to touchdowns in a lopsided match.

England wing Iain Balshaw scored a consolation try for the Barbarians that was converted by New Zealand flyhalf Luke McAlister on the stroke of halftime but the visitors were never able to pose any real threat to the Australians.

The Wallabies scored three tries inside the first 23 minutes to open up a 20-7 halftime lead then piled on five unanswered tries in the second term to run out easy winners.

The only disappointment for the Australians were injuries to scrumhalf Luke Burgess and flanker Matt Hodgson although both may yet be available for next weekend's first test against Italy in Canberra.

Rocky Elsom, who returned to Australia last nweek after spending a season in Ireland, was a late withdrawal from the Barbarians after injuring his knee in training on Friday but was immediately added to the Wallabies squad for this season.


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