Wales will have a golden opportunity to end a nine-year drought against a Wallabies side in disarray in Cardiff on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Wales have won just two of their last 21 Tests against Australia since the turn of the century and are on a 13-game losing streak against them dating back to November 2009.
Based on recent form, though, this Welsh outfit have every right to believe they can beat the Wallabies, who have lost 21 of their 39 Tests since the 2015 World Cup and seven of their 10 Tests this year.
In contrast, Wales have seven wins from nine Tests in 2018 and are on a six-match winning run.
With Tests against Italy and England to come and the World Cup looming large, Australia will be desperate to start this tour on winning note. To do so, they will need to improve their discipline and defence, which have been their biggest weakness in recent months.
These two teams will be in the same pool at next year’s World Cup, so whoever wins over the weekend will go into that fixture with confidence.
On Saturday, the back-row battle will be pivotal. Australia have perfected the art of utilising an openside double act, with the selection of David Pocock and Michael Hooper (commonly known as ‘Pooper’) in the same loose trio.
Wales have done the same by starting Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate in tandem, with Ross Moriarty completing the back row.
Renowned for his pilfering, Pocock poses a big threat to Wales. With three playmakers – Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua – in the Australian backline, conceding possession could become dangerous for Wales.
In other team news, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has selected his greatest attacking weapon, Israel Folau, on the right wing, with Dane Haylett-Petty retained at fullback.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has taken a risk by starting Josh Adams ahead of Liam Willams out wide and Gareth Anscombe ahead of Dan Biggar at flyhalf.
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 Dan Lydiate, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Liam Williams.
Wallabies – 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
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images