Planet Rugby

Preview: Wales v Australia

30th November 2012 05:25

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Benn Robinson Mike Phillips Australia v Wales

Wales v Oz: Resume their rivalry

Wales will be out to avoid looking the same colour of their jerseys for a seventh straight time when they host Australia in Cardiff on Saturday.

The hosts need to return to winning ways in order to avoid a November whitewash of four defeats and to preserve their place among the world's top eight-ranked teams prior to Monday's 2015 World Cup draw in London.

If they win or draw, Wales will stay seventh.

Easier said than done as their rugby-mad supporters have discovered, seeing as they were last treated to a win way back in June when Wales beat the Barbarians.

Since then the Six Nations champs suffered a 3-0 series defeat Down Under, were shocked by Argentina and Samoa in their opening two games this month before going down to New Zealand.

But it could all have been so differently scripted a year ago, after a flamboyant Welsh side performed so well at the World Cup and then went on to win a third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight years.

Consistency has well and truly deserted Wales, a loss for whom on Saturday would represent their worst run of defeats since 2003. Indeed, the Welsh are starring down the barrel and Australia - assured of a top seeding for the World Cup draw - have their finger on the trigger.

Pride and morale will also no doubt be low in the Wales camp especially coming in a season in which many players are looking to stake their claims for places in next year's British & Irish Lions squad.

"I think the game is massively important from a Welsh perspective, in terms of confidence and building on last week," said Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will lead the Lions to Australia next year.

"From a Lions point of view, it's about some of the Welsh players putting their hands up in terms of selection. There are maybe a couple of lines going through a couple of names and they need to re-establish themselves."

Gatland, however, isn't too concerned about the ramifications regarding the upcoming World Cup draw.

"If anyone is looking at us, when it comes around to 2015 and having had the preparation time together, I don't think any team particularly fancies getting Wales in their group," he said.

"We were in a really tough group last time. It is luck of the draw."

The Wallabies, meanwhile, have silenced their critics (albeit temporarily) following their opening match on tour in Paris, and have rebounded well heading into ths clash. They squeezed past Italy 22-19, having held on to beat England 20-14 the previous Saturday and will be confident of ending their trip to Europe on a high note.

After a turbulent season of mixed results and innumerable injuries, the Wallabies not only need to beat Wales for a fourth time this year, but do it with style to keep coach Robbie Deans' small army of doubters reasonably quiet over the holiday period.

However, as coach Deans put it earlier this week: "Cornered beasts are always the most dangerous; they have nowhere else to go but straight ahead."

In a recap of team news, Deans has named David Pocock in his starting XV. The openside flanker who led Australia to the three-Test clean sweep in June has recovered from a knee injury that has ruled him since the Wallabies' opening match of the Rugby Championship against New Zealand in August.

Wales have made four changes, all in the pack, to their run-on team. Gatland notably bringing in Scott Andrews for injured tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis, while lock Ian Evans replaces Bradley Davies, who was ruled out after being felled by the now-banned Andrew Hore in Wales' 33-10 defeat by the All Blacks last weekend.

Ones to watch:

For Australia: The player making headlines this week out of Australia's camp is undoubtedly flank David Pocock, who makes his long awaited return to the Test arena. Above anyone else, the Wallabies chief pilferer could well be the real difference between the two sides. His presence also serves as a powerful motivating factor for the visitors - he's a strong leader, both through actions and words.

For Wales: Wales will be relying on Gethin Jenkins to bolster their scrum up front against the ever-improving Wallabies pack. The Toulon front-rower is a powerful scrummager and a strong ball-carrier, often enabling crucial front-foot ball through a solid hit or carry that forces the defence on their heels - handy attributes for any prop.

Head to head: The line-out tussle between Luke Charteris and Nathan Sharpe will be an interesting aerial duel with both tasked to nullify the other's influence. The vastly experienced Sharpe is never intimidated though and will be looking to end his long and distinguished career with a bang. Pocock's breakdown battle with Sam Warburton will also be a fierce contest. This match-up is a matter of the Wales skipper, who is starting to rediscover his form, doing really well if he can match the Aussie's work rate and effectiveness in the loose.

Recent results:
2012: Australia won 20-19, Sydney
2012: Australia won 25-23, Gold Goast
2012: Australia won 27-19, Brisbane
2011: Australia won 24-18, Cardiff
2011: Australia won 21-18, Auckland
2010: Australia won 25-16, Cardiff
2009: Australia won 3012, Cardiff
2008: Wales won 21-18, Cardiff
2007: Australia won 32-20, Cardiff
2007: Australia won 31-0, Brisbane
2007: Australia won 29-23, Sydney
2006: Match drawn 29-29, Cardiff
2005: Wales won 24-22, Cardiff

Prediction: This should be another close encounter with Australia creeping ahead before another Wales revival. But alas it will once again be too little too late for the hosts. Australia by five!

The teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Scott Williams.

Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Digby Ioane.

Date: Saturday, December 1
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Millennium Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

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