Key Clash Preview and Prediction: Wales v Australia

ben mowen
On Saturday night Wales host Australia in what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the Autumn Internationals. Both sides recovered from a loss in their opening games of the series to win three on the bounce and they will be determined round off their campaigns with a win. Wales will be looking to claim their first victory over one of the southern hemisphere big three since beating the visitors five years ago. The Welsh have registered just two wins and a draw against the Wallabies in the last decade, but after a considerable Welsh influence helped the British and Irish Lions to a series win in the summer, Warren Gatland’s men will believe that they have enough to overcome the Aussies.

Wales

Gatland has recalled the big guns after resting them during last Friday’s victory. He has made nine changes to the side that beat Tonga.

Wales’ backline will be bolstered by the return of Alex Cuthbert. The Lion returns to the wing after recovering from the ankle injury that has, so far, kept him out of the November test matches. He will rejoin Leigh Halfpenny and George North, to complete one of world rugby’s most electrifying back threes. Owen Williams keeps his place in the midfield after scoring in last week’s win. He will be joined by Scott Williams, who has been recalled after recovering from a toe injury. Owen Williams tore through the Tongans with pace and precision and namesake Scott showed plenty of promise against the Pumas.

After giving each fly-half ample opportunity to impress, Gatland has decided to give Dan Biggar the nod ahead of Rhys Priestland, who has been left on the bench. But there is no place in the match-day squad for the versatile James Hook, who has not been released from his club, Perpignan. Biggar will be joined by Mike Philips who is set to return at scrum half.

Sam Warburton returns to skipper the side at seven. He will be joined by the infallible Toby Faleutau and Dan Lydiate. The Warburton-Lydiate partnership poses serious threats to Australian aspirations of quick and clean ball. The Toulon-bound Ian Evans retains his place in the engine room after a man of the match performance against Tonga. He will rekindle his partnership with Alun-Wyn Jones in the absence of Bradley Davies, who is set to undergo shoulder surgery.

Gethin Jenkins will win his 101st cap in the front row. He will pack down alongside the foreboding figure of Richard Hibbard, along with Rhodri Jones, who has proved to be a robust replacement for the injured Adam Jones, and the Welsh front row will fancy their chances against their Wallaby counterparts.

Australia

Ewen McKenzie has made two changes to the side that edged past Scotland last weekend, ahead of their trip to the Millennium stadium. Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins have been recalled to side after serving a one-match ban. The pair were among six players who were banned by the Australian coach for inappropriate drinking in Dublin.

Ashley-Cooper replaces Mike Harris at centre with Christian Leali’lifano moving to 12. Nick Cummins reclaims his place on the wing at the expense of Chris Feauai-Sautia, the Honey Badger joining Joe Tomane and Israel Folau in the back three. Quade Cooper is set to make his 50th appearance for the Wallabies. The Australian vice captain has thrived in his new role and he has been their most influential player during the autumn internationals. His creativity and dynamism has inspired his backline and tormented opposition defences.

Cooper will resume his formidable partnership with Will Genia, who retains the nine shirt despite a shaky performance against the Scots. The Scottish pack harassed him to great effect last weekend, and if Wales are able to do the same, they will have a chance of suffocating this potent Australian offence. But Genia only needs an inch, and if they give him it, he will stretch the Welsh defence and provide his side with plenty of impetus.

The pack remains unchanged although McKenzie has reshuffled the bench. Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, and back-rower Dave Dennis have been brought in as replacements.

All eyes on

Israel Folau has been a revelation to rugby union since switching codes. He is impeccable under the high ball and scintillating with it in hand. His pace and acute sense of timing make him almost impossible to stop. Folau is undoubtedly the Wallabies’ most consistent performer, scored nine tries in his last 14 Tests. Wales will seriously struggle to keep him quiet, and Folau’s presence will have certainly shaped their kicking tactics, as they will be very cautious about booting anything his way.

Leigh Halfpenny’s consistency is an integral part of this Welsh side’s success. He has been faultless throughout their autumn campaign – off the kicking tee, under the high ball and in defence. But he will be tested by the tactical kicking of Quade Cooper and co, and he will need to find a way of beating his opposite man in the air as the Australians will look to isolate the towering Folau and the vertically challenged Halfpenny. Halfpenny’s heroics proved to be the difference between the Lions and the Aussies during the summer, but will he be able to inspire his country to the same success?

Head to head: Toby Faletau v Ben Mowen

Ben Mowen has flourished in his new captaincy role. He has been Australia’s rock at the base of their scrum, in the lineout and in defence. As he showed against the Lions in the summer, he thrives against the brutish physicality of the Welsh forwards and he is more than capable of matching and surpassing the intensity they bring. But on Saturday, he faces the daunting challenge of going toe to toe with world rugby’s in-form No 8, Toby Faletau. He has been flawless for Wales in every facet of his game. The clash between these two titans promises to be huge, but something has got to give – let’s just hope it is not the ground beneath them.

Prediction

The Australian back-line will certainly prey on the naivety of the Welsh midfield and the Williams duo will need to produce something special to withstand the Aussie onslaught. The Australian pack will struggle against the physicality and tenacity of the Welsh pack but they have plenty of quality and experience and they should be able to secure enough ball to allow Genia and Cooper to work their magic. The Australians always seem to be able to grind out a result against the Welsh, regardless of form and on Saturday night they will do the same. Australia by 5.

By Nathan Hyde (@NathanHyde2)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

16 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview and Prediction: Wales v Australia

  1. Would love to see Wales win.

    BUT, the Aussies seem to get better and stronger with each game, so my head is pointing south on this one.

  2. Is it a SH or NH ref? If the latter, then Welsh fwd dominance could see them get the sort of dominance the Lions had, and they could be out of sight on penalties alone by half time?

  3. Pretty much agree. I actually think it will be even closer than 5 points.

    If Wales don’t beat them now, then when?

    Side not; I think Kieran Read may have something to say about you calling Faletau the “world rugby’s in-form No 8”.

  4. I’m gonna go for Wales by 6, I think the Aussies were flattered in Dublin by a poor day for Ireland rather than anything special themselves. 5th game in 5 weeks for some of these Aussies and 5th week of boozing and partying for others will sap them in the 2nd half, despite the convenient one game rests given for disciplinary reasons v Scotland. I’m hoping for a calm, determined and professional game for Wales to secure a win, get the monkey off the back and look forward to the 6N.

  5. Toby Faletau the world’s in-form No 8? As much as I admire Faletau, he’s not a patch on Kieran Read at the moment. The winning of this game will be in how Wales handle Michael Hooper. It’s true that the Aussies were flattered by a poor Irish performance in Dublin, but Hooper was absolutely magnificent that day and if he’s allowed dominate the breakdown then the Aussie back-line only needs a sniff of a chance to punish you.

  6. I concur, Aus by 5. It’ll be a tough beginning but I think the potency of the Aussie backline and their bench will nullify Wales at the front. I think you meant Kieran Read as the in-form 8 not Faletau btw!

  7. Robin MyBryde on bbc – “”You can take the statistics for what they are, but they have been penalised heavily at scrum. In the last six games in particular – 28 times they have been penalised in the scrum.” – that’s nearly 15 points offered up a game.

  8. Lukov
    Well it’ll be interesting & IMO Wales will likely scrape it due to home advantage & as Lukov Says; ‘Wayne Barnes – game on’, when he likely means game over?

    Benjit
    Benjit talks of Welsh fwd dominance (like) the Lions had… & they could be out of sight on penalties alone by half time? Well with Wayne (‘Look at me when I’m talking to you!’) Barnes it’s entirely possible. But then WB’s ego has always been bigger than the game. Ask Hartley.

    However & for some balance & objectivity, this stuff about Lions fwd dominance, it was only in the last test… & it was the Oz ‘D’ that fell apart in the 2nd 1/2 that led to the scoreline. Oz had clawed their way back by 1/2 time & all the ‘red coats’ in the New Inn (Ealing) were sweating, I’m telling you Boyo. Besides the Lions were lucky in the 1st with 1/2 the Oz backs stretchered off (incl their goal kicker). Made all the diff. So fortune played it’s part, as it sometimes can do… it altered the series. And I didn’t make this up. You saw it yrselves!

    I’m also perplexed by this constant impropaganda about the Oz scrum. V England it was also carped about, but when Oz put into their own scrum, they wasn’t a single issue (as I recall). Funny that. For me, too much is made of this so called NH dominance of the Oz scrum. If their scrum is so weak (& has apparantly been so at least since the days of Al baxter – who, incidentally, helped shove Sheridan & his fr. row back over their own line for a pushover try in his last Twickers appearance!), then how come they are back up to 3 in the IRB rankings… & Wales 6 (I think). And last yr when 1/2 the Oz side was injured, how come they beat England & Wales? Or how come they were 2 (or 3) in the world prior to most of the past decade if they had no scrum?

    Too much perception, not enough objectivity for me.

    Anyway, it should be (Barnes permitting) an absorbing game… but we’ll see.

    PS On a personal note regds the Welsh b/row, it would be hard to drop any of them, but I liked this Tuperic. For me, in the win over England last yr, he was the one who created that (1st?) try for Geo North(?) in the r.h. corner. Beautiful hands. Ran & dummied like a 3/4 (or Cliff Morgan?!). Instrumental in really kick starting Wales. A game changer.

  9. Australia are starting to play like Australia again, rather than England without a scrum (which is pretty much where they were at in the summer).

    Think Australia will shade it with Wales missing their Lions centres.

  10. Another so-called heroic failure awaits Wales. Seen it all before and will no doubt see it again.
    Another SH match goes begging again as it has before again and yet again. If Preistland gets on we are f+++ed!!

  11. Lukov, “Ewen McKenzie has made two changes to the side that edged past Scotland last weekend”. Forget about the “convenient” resting conspiracy theories.

  12. I hope & trust that the Welsh team have more confidence and belief in themselves than some of the so called ‘supporters’ on here. I can’t believe some of the negative ‘glass always half full’ comments from some people, if the Welsh have an inferiority complex when playing the ‘big 3’ SF teams it’s no wonder with the ‘beat before you start’ attitude of some people.
    Try backing your team for once ….
    Wales by 6-8

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