Preview: Wales v Australia

For years Australia were Warren Gatland and Wales’ bête noire but having finally got the better of the Wallabies last November, the Grand Slam champions enter Sunday’s pool clash with confidence.

For years Australia were Warren Gatland and Wales’ bête noire but having finally got the better of the Wallabies last November, the Grand Slam champions enter Sunday’s pool clash with confidence.

Victory over Michael Cheika’s team would put Wales in pole position to top Pool D, with matches against Uruguay and Fiji to come.

And after kicking off their campaign with a comprehensive win over Georgia, the 2019 Guinness Six Nations winners are starting to hit their stride.

There had been no hiding the fact that they had struggled under Gatland against the Wallabies, losing 13 successive Test matches including at each of the last two World Cups.

But a year ago Wales edged home 9-6 in Cardiff to get that monkey off their backs.

Gatland has stuck with the same team that saw off Georgia in Toyota, Alun Wyn Jones set to break the record for the most Wales caps as he wins his 13oth.

Australia, by contrast, have rung the changes following their victory over Fiji, with a new half-back pairing and two further changes in the back three.

The experienced duo of Will Genia and Bernard Foley return to run the show, while Adam Ashley-Cooper starts on the wing in his fourth World Cup, with Dane Haylett-Petty preferred to Kurtley Beale at full-back.

Wales v Australia, Sunday September 29, Chofu, Kick off 8:45AM (BST)

Wales coach Warren Gatland on ending the losing run against the Wallabies:

“Losing games in the last minute in half a dozen contests can be quite demoralising, but we really focused on last autumn’s campaign and it was really important to us with two big games against Australia and South Africa.

“Australia was definitely one we went in trying to write the wrongs and coming away with a win. It was a typical old fashioned test match as there was not much given and defences tended to dominate, but we were lucky to come out on top.”

“We did a good job last year on Hooper. He had about 12 attempts against us trying to steal the ball and he did not get any. Pocock was a different story. He had about 10 attempts and got about five. He is a big threat and it is something we must focus on. He is pretty good at picking his timings when he does go for the ball in a turnover.

“They are two definite threats at the breakdown but we are pretty happy with our loose forwards, with their ball carrying physicality as well. They are all capable of playing six, seven and eight which is pretty similar to Australia.”

As Gatland explained, the back-row battle will be crucial to this match as Wales look for a way to shut down the Michael Hooper-David Pocock double act.

Justin Tipuric is the only Welshman who started in the back row that day and does again in Tokyo, with Aaron Wainwright and Josh Navidi slotting into the roles of Dan Lydiate and Ross Moriarty.

Moriarty is waiting on the bench, and will no doubt have an impact, but it will be up to the starters to try to negate the impact Pocock, in particular, can have at the breakdown.

The other wild card to throw in is Isi Naisarani, now established as Australia’s first-choice No.8, and a ball-carrying threat that Wales will be very wary of.

They did well to deny Georgia much go-forward from the back row and Tipuric stood out with his support play, so Wales will fancy their chances of getting the upper hand in this area.

Wales: 15. Liam Williams, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Jake Ball, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6. Aaron Wainwright, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Josh Navidi

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Nicky Smith, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Aaron Shingler, 20. Ross Moriarty, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Rhys Patchell, 23. Owen Watkin

Australia: 15. Dane Haylett-Petty, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. James O’Connor, 12. Samu Kerevi, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Will Genia, 1. Scott Sio, 2. Tolu Latu, 3. Alan Alaalatoa, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Rory Arnold, 6. David Pocock, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Isi Naisarani

Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. James Slipper, 18. Sekope Kepu, 19. Adam Coleman, 20. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21. Nic White, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Kurtley Beale