Australia are still licking their wounds after being whitewashed over three Bledisloe Cup Tests by fierce rivals New Zealand — two of which were part of a humiliating Rugby Championship campaign.
Wales have lost their last 13 Tests against the Wallabies, but with Michael Cheika’s outfit having lost seven out of 10 overall this year — including two out of three in their home series against Ireland — they arguably head into Saturday’s fixture as underdogs.
After last Saturday’s 21-10 win over Scotland, coach Warren Gatland played down the significance of the hosts’ record against the Wallabies in recent years, insisting they have been unlucky at times. He added: “It would be nice to get a result next weekend but the more important game is going to be at the World Cup [when the teams face off in Tokyo on 29 September next year].”
Although Gatland’s side was hit by the shock retirement of Sam Warburton midway through the year, they did not appear to miss their former captain against Scotland.
This was not lost on David Pocock, who despite being a self-confessed admirer of Warburton, was quoted by BBC Sport as saying: “Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate are pretty handy. It’s always a great battle at the breakdown.”
Tipuric and Lydiate have once again been selected as the starting flankers by Wales coach Gatland, with Ross Moriarty completing the loose trio.
Adam Beard comes into the starting XV alongside Alun Wyn Jones at lock, while Tomas Francis will pack down alongside Nicky Smith and Ken Owens after replacing Dillon Lewis.
Josh Adams is the only new face in the backline, as he will be partnering George North on the wings. Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies will once again line up at centre, with Leigh Halfpenny at full-back and Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe the half-back pairing.
The experienced Liam Williams and Dan Biggar have been left on a bench which in total boasts 185 caps.
Meanwhile, Samu Kerevi returns at 13 for the Wallabies, with Israel Folau moving back to the wing and Marika Koroibete dropping out of the 23.
Jack Dempsey is another returnee, with his inclusion at flanker relegating Ned Hanigan to the bench. Meanwhile, Adam Coleman is back after a groin injury to partner Izack Rodda at lock.
Despite plenty of anticipation, Adam Ashley-Cooper has failed to make Michael Cheika’s matchday 23 for what would have been a sensational return to test rugby.
Players to watch:
For Wales: George North has been in fine try-scoring form for Ospreys since his move from Northampton Saints. After bagging the first try in the game against Scotland, the 26-year-old will be looking to keep his momentum going.
For Australia: Israel Folau is always a dangerman for the Wallabies, and having moved back to wing after making his first ever Test start at 13 and scoring a try in the 37-20 defeat to New Zealand, he will be in more familiar territory come Saturday.
Head-to-head: Although plenty of pre-match discourse has focused on the breakdown battle, another key contest will be at the line-outs. With Tolu Latu coming into the Wallabies side, he will be largely responsible for patching up a major weakness in their game of late. It will be crucial for Australia that he is able to match or outdo the experienced Ken Owens.
2017: Australia won 29-21 in Cardiff
2016: Australia won 32-8 in Cardiff
2015: Australia won 15-6 in London
2014: Australia won 33-28 in Cardiff
2013: Australia won 30-26 in Cardiff
2012: Australia won 14-12 in Cardiff
2012: Australia won 20-19 in Sydney
2012: Australia won 25-23 in Melbourne
Prediction: Even a wounded Wallabies outfit will always pose a tough test for the Welsh, but this time, Warren Gatland’s side should have enough firepower to see them off. Wales to win by five points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Liam Williams
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Jack Maddocks
Date: Saturday, November 10
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17:20 GMT
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)