Preview: Wales v Australia

Saturday brings with it a feast of international rugby and once courses involving Italy, Scotland and England are done it’s Wales who take to the field for a tea-time Test against Australia.

Saturday brings with it a feast of international rugby and once courses involving Italy, Scotland and England are done it’s Wales who take to the field for a tea-time Test against Australia.

Cardiff’s Principality Stadium plays host to a fascinating match-up between two countries and all kinds of plotlines at play, with Wales and Australia being grouped together in Pool D at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Plenty of talk in the build-up to the game has been about Wales’ winless run against the southern hemisphere side, which now stretches to 13 games, a monkey they will surely wish to hurl from their back.

And while Australia are seemingly Wales’ bogey team of late, Michael Cheika’s men will come up against a side who’ve enjoyed a superb 2018 – finishing second in the Six Nations and developing an ever-deepening pool of talent on a successful tour to Argentina over the summer.

A triumph-filled year progressed another step further last week with a 21-10 victory over Scotland, meaning Wales are on a six-match winning run for the first time since June 2012, also registering a first successful start to an autumn in 16 years.

Head coach Warren Gatland has continued to tinker with his line-up for Saturday and has chosen to reward some who starred on that summer tour and against Scotland last week.

Wing Josh Adams and lock Adam Beard both stood out in Argentina and earn another shot against Australia, as do fly-half Gareth Anscombe and Dan Lydiate with both impressing last weekend.

Adams, Beard and prop Tomas Francis are the three changes to the starting XV from the win over Scotland, while Gatland’s bench includes 180 caps of experience, including British & Irish Lions stars Dan Biggar and Liam Williams.

With Australia often pipping Wales to the post in the final quarter in recent years that strong bench could be key, but Chieka’s side are also not in great form, only escaping finishing bottom of the Rugby Championship with a second-half rally against Argentina in their final match.

Cheika has shifted his backline around for this game, moving the imperious Israel Folau to full-back and Dane Haylett-Petty to wing – Adam Coleman also returns at lock after missing the New Zealand Test in Japan with a groin injury.   Wales v Australia, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Saturday 10 November, 5.20pm kick-off GMT   Wales head coach Warren Gatland – “I think in the past, we haven’t been great starters in the autumn.

“It’s tough when you haven’t been together for four months and you normally come up against either an Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, who have just come off a Rugby Championship. It is not the easiest thing in the world.

“The fact we have that first game under our belt, we have a win, we have some confidence, hopefully we’ll be a lot better from that performance last week to take on Australia.”

Australia head coach Michael Cheika: “Warren Gatland is one of the best coaches in the world, he has had Lions success at that level and with Wales.

“He has got a very well organised and well-drilled team so that’s why they are in the position they are and it’s a great opportunity for us to try and take their scalp.”   Key Battle: Back Row

Saturday’s back-row battle between Wales and Australia promises to be a fascinating one, with both sides boasting superb riches in that area of the pitch.

Australia go with captain Michael Hooper at openside and David Pocock at No.8, both are previous nominees for World Player of the Year and are particularly adept at the breakdown.

At 24, Jack Dempsey is Hooper and Pocock’s junior but is an exciting talent for Australia, having impressed in the 2017 Bledisloe Cup win over New Zealand.

The back row is a particular strength for Wales also, with Justin Tipuric at openside to offer energy and breakdown nous, sandwiched between the iron wills of blindside Dan Lydiate and No.8 Ross Moriarty.

Co-captain for the summer tour Ellis Jenkins is also among the replacements and is an increasingly domineering back-row talent.

Stat Watch:

– This year marks the 10th anniversary since Gatland began his reign as Wales head coach – and 2008 was also the last time Wales beat Australia – 21-18 in Cardiff.

– Wales’ Moriarty and Lydiate made 47 tackles between them against Scotland last week, leading the charge to keep their Six Nations rivals at bay.

– Australia have only three wins in ten matches this year, their win percentage of 30% is their lowest for a calendar year since 1974.

Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Nicky Smith, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 6. Dan Lydiate, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Ross Moriarty 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, 1. Scott Sio, 2. Tolu Latu, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Jack Dempsey, 7. Michael Hooper (captain), 8. David Pocock 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