Preview: Australia v Wales

Date published: June 8 2012

Wales will fancy their chances of handing Australia their second defeat in four days after their shock defeat to Scotland on Tuesday.

Wales will fancy their chances of handing Australia their second defeat in four days after their shock defeat to Scotland on Tuesday.

These two teams have played each other twice in the last year and Australia have been triumphant on both occasions. The Wallabies beat Wales 21-18 in the bronze medal match at last year's World Cup in New Zealand and were also victorious in Shane Williams' farewell Test at the Millennium Stadium last December.

But Wales are on a high after their triumphant Grand Slam campaign and will offer sterner opposition in this three-Test series which will also serve as an appetizer for next year's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia as Wales' players are expected to make up the bulk of that side's touring squad.

Apart from their defeat in their previous Test to the Six Nations' wooden spoonists Scotland, Australia seem vulnerable as they are without the services of a couple of influential players.

Regular pivot Quade Cooper has returned to action after recovering from a serious knee injury sustained in the clash between these sides at the World Cup, but is still someway off his best form and has not been included the matchday squad for this clash.

And the home side's captain James Horwill was ruled out of the series after injuring his hamstring in a Super Rugby match.

The Aussies have also had a shake-up in their backroom staff with Tony McGahan, Andrew Blades and Nick Scrivener coming aboard. McGahan has been appointed as the team's coaching co-ordinator while Blades and Scrivener take over from former assistants Jim Williams and Phil Blake, who were axed after last year's failed World Cup campaign.

Wales are close to fielding their strongest XV for this clash. Apart from inside centre Jamie Roberts and hooker Huw Bennett this will be the same run-on side which they fielded during the latter stages of their memorable World Cup campaign.

Although Roberts was arguably their best performer at last year's global showpiece his absence will not be a massive blow as his replacement, Scott Williams, regularly plays with Wales' outside centre Jonathan Davies for the Scarlets.

Wales are also without the services of their coach Warren Gatland who is still recovering from injuries to his feet suffered in an accident at his home in New Zealand.

But caretaker coach Rob Howley is a shrewd tactician who has been with this side for a while now and will certainly have done his homework on the opposition.

It's one of the oldest clichès in the game but the forward battle will play a huge role in determining the outcome of this match.

The two packs are evenly matched and with rain predicted don't be surprised if this match is played in a similar style to the Wallabies' clash with Scotland where the tight exchanges will have a huge bearing on the result.

Players to watch:

For Australia: Although the Waratahs have been struggling in the Super Rugby competition this year their number eight Wycliff Palu has putting in some good performances. Palu's ball carrying ability and solid defence are his strengths, and if he can do well in those departments he should be a threat to the Welsh. After struggling with injuries for most of last season, he is now fully fit and has a point to prove to his critics and supporters.

For Wales: With All Blacks enforcer Jerome Kaino sidelined through injury Dan Lydiate can lay claim to the unofficial title as the world's best blindside flanker at the moment. The Six Nations player of the year brings a physical edge to Wales' game and will prove a handful with ball in hand to the home side's defenders. His combination with skipper Sam Warburton and number eight Toby Faletau is amongst the best in the business and if the Dragons flanker brings his A-game to this encounter ,the Wallabies could have a torrid day at the office.

Head to head: The battle for the loose ball is always an important one and with two of the world's leading openside flankers on display, expect this one to be amongst the highlights of this match. Adding extra spice to the duel is that the Wallabies' David Pocock and Wales' Sam Warburton will both be captaining their sides. That means that their decison-making, especially under pressure, will also be closely scrutinised.

Previous results:

2011: Australia won 24-18 at Millennium Stadium
2011: Australia won 21-18 at Eden Park, Auckland
2010: Australia won 25-16 at Millennium Stadium
2009: Australia won 33-12 at Millennium Stadium
2008: Wales won 21-18 at Millennium Stadium
2007: Australia won 32-20 at Millennium Stadium
2007: Australia won 31-0 in Brisbane
2007: Australia won 29-23 in Sydney
2006: Draw 29-29 in Sydney

Prediction: The men in gold's last defeat to Wales on Australian soil occurred 42 years ago but that statistic is set to change this weekend. Teams of the Wallabies' calibre usually strike back immediately after humiliating defeats, but even though they will come out all guns blazing… Wales should win this clash by a narrow margin. Wales by three points!

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu , 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons , 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, 18 Michael Hooper, 19 Nic White, 20 Anthony Fainga'a, 21 Mike Harris.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 James Hook, 22 Ashley Beck.

Date: Saturday, June 9
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20:00 (10:00 GMT)
Weather: Ninety percent chance of rain with a moderate wind blowing. Min 11°C, Max 21°C
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

By David Skippers