By Kate Holton
DORNEY, England (Reuters) - The Australian flagship men's four backed up their tough-talking rhetoric with a new best Olympic time on Monday, setting the stage for a showdown with arch-rival champions Britain in what is likely to be the race of the London 2012 regatta.
Triple Olympic champion Drew Ginn set the tone for the British-Australian "Ashes" clash last week by using his last press conference to suggest his Oarsome Foursome had "scared the hell" out of the British boat by beating them in their last race in Munich.
James Tomkins, the greatest Olympic sweep rower ever produced by Australia, last month said the rowing clash would compare to the famous "Ashes" cricketing rivalry between the two countries.
Ginn, exuding confidence, even went on to share his race plan, describing their approach as akin to drag racing, where they will fire off the start and just keep going.
The fast start will be needed if they are to hold off the British crew, which is known for its sprint finish and contains three of the four rowers who won gold in Beijing, where Britain secured its third consecutive win in the men's Olympic four.
"I think sport gets boring when people hold back and script what they are saying," Ginn told reporters after posting a time in fast conditions of 5 minutes 47.06, almost two seconds faster than the previous Olympic best time.
The British finished their heat almost three seconds slower but they appeared to be rowing within themselves.
"It's simple, we are trying to go out as fast as possible from stroke one," Ginn said. "We are not playing games. We love to race. Any time you take it to people, there is fear and anxiety involved."
The British men's four had come into the final months leading up to the Games as the clear favorite for the Olympic title having won the world championships in 2011 and setting a new world best time in a heat at a world cup race in Lucerne.
The Australian crew lost that world cup final to Britain but beat the British boat twice in the final world cup regatta of the season in Munich, the last time the two boats met.
"The Aussies are great characters, they're always going to bring something to an event, they're lively guys, they play their game like we play ours," British crew member Andrew Triggs Hodge said.
Britain's Tom James said the two boats would share a beer once the racing was out of the way.
The British said they quite enjoyed being the underdogs but warned that they were a different boat from the one that lost in Munich, having spent weeks away in training to fine tune their technique.
They also expect a lift from the home crowd at the London Games as they row past 25,000 cheering fans in the grandstands along the final 500 meters of the 2,000-metre race on Dorney Lake.
"Isn't everyone here for us?" Australia's Ginn asked. "I didn't realize it was for the British, we just thought it was for us. You can't work out the difference."
(Editing by Jason Neely)