The Wallabies should build on their increasing confidence by claiming a win over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Considering the woes of the Australian teams during Super Rugby this year, the dogged determination of the Wallabies throughout the Rugby Championship has to be commended.
Coach Michael Cheika does seem to have the ability to bring out the best in a team that has clear limitations, but does not lack passion or pride.
It was those qualities that saw them snap a seven-match losing streak against the All Blacks in the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test on 21 October, with this result sure to have sent their confidence levels skyrocketing.
Understandably then, Cheika has largely stuck with the team that performed so impressively in Brisbane, although the absence of rested Israel Folau means that Kurtley Beale will continue at fullback, with Samu Kerevi starting at 12.
Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland has opted for a dual playmaker strategy that sees Gloucester pivot Owen Williams set to make his first Test start at inside centre, while the experienced Dan Biggar will wear the No 10 jersey.
It was an approach that Gatland enforced to good effect when he deployed England’s Owen Farrell alongside Irish flyhalf Johnny Sexton during the British & Irish Lions series against New Zealand, but it does leave Wales a bit light in the midfield.
With big centres such as Tevita Kuridrani and Kerevi, the Wallabies are likely to target the Welsh 10-12 channel, with Australia’s backline certainly boasting a formidable look to it.
The battle at the breakdown should also be an interesting one, as Wales’ openside flank injury woes have opened the door for Josh Navidi to make his first Test start on home soil, where he will line up opposite the ever-influential Michael Hooper.
As this season has progressed, the Wallabies have fine-tuned some of their defensive and set-piece problems, and it should enable them to lay the necessary foundation for their confident backs to make a match-defining mark on proceedings.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Hallam Amos.
Wallabies – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images