Wales vs Australia: Nine things you need to know

Our man in Cardiff rounds up the information you need as Wales look to finally banish thier southern hemisphere demons

By Gareth Llewellyn

What time does it get going?

Saturday 8 November 2014, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Kick-off 14:30 GMT. Live TV coverage on BBC One across the UK. Radio coverage on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

Who’s the man with the whistle?

Durban native Craig Joubert is the referee today, with the 36-year-old former corporate banker joined on the touchlines by compatriot Jaco Peyper and Ireland’s Peter Fitzgibbon. England’s Graham Hughes is the lucky man on TMO duty.

What’s the team news?

Wales: Bit of a reshuffle in the backline by Warren Gatland. Northampton Saints winger George North switches to outside centre alongside Jamie Roberts due to injuries, so Scarlets full-back Liam Williams takes his place on the left wing. Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns for his first international start since March, with Alex Cuthbert completing the back three. At half-back, Gatland went with consensus, by selecting Ospreys duo Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb to hopefully run the show as well as they have been doing for their club.

Up front, there is no Adam Jones, who was dropped, so Scarlets talent Samson Lee packs down at tighthead prop along with experienced campaigners Paul James (loosehead) and Richard Hibbard (hooker). Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones takes his customary place in the engine room with Scarlets lock Jake Ball joining him as Warren Gatland released Luke Charteris back to Racing Metro so he would be available for the final tour match against South Africa on 29 November, which falls outside of the IRB Test window. It’s a familiar-looking Welsh back row as flankers Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton return, with Taulupe Faletau in at number 8.

Australia: Under new management, there aren’t too many changes for Michael Cheika’s first Test staring XV from the side that lost to the All Blacks last month. Israel Folau continues at full-back along with NSW Waratahs team-mate Adam Ashley-Cooper on the right wing and Brumbies star Joe Tomane on the left wing. A powerful midfield sees Tevita Kuridrani link up with Brumbies team-mate Christian Leali’ifano, while Waratahs half-back duo Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps get the chance to continue their partnership for the Wallabies.

In the forwards, rising star Sean McMahon makes his debut at blindside flanker, with captain Michael Hooper and Ben McCalman completing the back row. The engine room is occupied by Sam Carter and Rob Simmons, with a strong front row consisting of James Slipper at loosehead, Sekope Kepu at tighthead and completed by Saia Fainga’a at hooker.

Who is in the full match-day 23?

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Jamie Roberts (Racing Métro), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Paul James (Bath Rugby), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester Rugby), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Unattached), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Métro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Blues).

Australia: Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs); Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies), Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies), Joe Tomane (Brumbies); Bernard Foley (Waratahs), Nick Phipps (Waratahs); James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Saia Fainga’a (Reds), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Sam Carter (Brumbies), Rob Simmons (Reds), Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rebels), Michael Hooper (Waratahs, captain), Ben McCalman (Western Force).

Replacements: James Hanson (Reds), Tetera Faulkner (Force), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), James Horwill (Reds), Will Skelton (Waratahs), Matt Hodgson (Force); Will Genia (Reds), Rob Horne (Waratahs).

Who should I keep an eye on?

Wales: North at outside centre could be a gamble for Wales if his defence isn’t solid, but the Saints winger has proven he can do a job there in attack, and it will be another big test for the 22-year-old winger. If it doesn’t work, Cardiff Blues rising star Cory Allen could make an early appearance from the bench with North returning to his customary position roaming from left wing. Last time the sides met, North found his way over for two tries.

Lauded every week for their performances in the Guinness PRO12, Ospreys half-back duo Biggar and Webb get another chance to show they can take their ability and form on to the international stage for the first time since Webb was injured against England at Twickenham in March. Both have been mesmerising as they have controlled games and confounded opponents, although Biggar’s place kicking did look out of sorts against the Saints in Europe. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem with points machine Halfpenny back in the side. On form at the moment, there aren’t many better partnerships in the northern hemisphere going into the autumn internationals.

Australia: It would be very dangerous to take your eyes off full-back Izzy Folau. He comes with a reputation as one of the most dangerous backs in world rugby and, like New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams, seems to be able to rock up to any sport and own it. Fifteen tries in 25 Tests is a formidable record in rugby union and if Wales go back to their old kicking game, the Waratahs star is the one Wallaby they won’t want to find waiting underneath it unless they want to get an up-close view of his power and pace rumbling towards their try line.

Former Australia U20 captain Sean McMahon isn’t someone who many people will have heard of, but his debut is deserved after a brilliant season down under. The flanker has been ripping it up in the National Rugby Championship and picked up a bronze medal with the Australian 7s side at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow four months ago. He’s perhaps fortunate that his elevation to the senior team has come through injuries to others, but he could be a surprise package in the Wallabies team.

What do the teams make of this match?

Wales head coach, Warren Gatland: “We had a pretty honest debrief when we first came in to camp.

“We looked at the second Test in South Africa and hopefully the things we can learn from, make sure that learning takes place and we are a bit more clinical when we get that opportunity again, if it does arise.

“Once you do it the first time, it becomes easier the second and the third time. We have been knocking at the door, but we’ve got to get through it and get across the line, and nail one of those victories.

“We’ve really looked at the long-term plan in terms of this campaign, the Six Nations and the World Cup,” he added.

“We have run things a little differently in this campaign and we will in the Six Nations, almost like World Cup camps.

“It is something I think we have been pretty bold and courageous to do. Our whole focus in the next 12 months has to be getting out of our group in the World Cup. That has to be our primary focus.”

Australia head coach, Michael Cheika: “There were some tough selection choices and we know we have players who can come in and add, which is important.

“We want to create an environment where everyone is pushing each other. We have some highly talented players and the guys are hungry.

“What we have to do is to deliver high levels of consistency. A winning attitude comes from being consistently high in training.

“There is no marker ahead of the World Cup.

“I have never seen a game of rugby that has had an influence on another match in 12 months. Everything can change.

“There is probably a bit of a consensus that it is not a matter of if Wales will beat us, but when.

“A lot of people are not giving us much of a show in these matches if you read the UK press. It is up to us dig our heels and push hard to be successful.”

Anything I may have missed?

The Wallabies have already had one outing on their spring tour, eventually seeing off the Barbarians 40-36 at Twickenham on Saturday. It was new head coach Michael Cheika’s first match in charge and a winning start to give the Aussies a boost after the Textgate affair involving Kurtley Beale, and led to Ewen McKenzie resigning last month after Bledisloe 3 in Brisbane.

Wales’ last outing came in June as they threw away a glorious chance to leave the southern hemisphere with a rare win, only to lose 31-30 as Warren Gatland’s charges conspired to throw away a 17-point lead, compounded in the final minutes as full-back Liam Williams was binned for preventing a certain try in the corner, resulting in a penalty try – the easier conversion making the difference.

This match will be the last time the two countries meet ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup clash, with Australia looking to retain the James Bevan trophy, while Wales will win it for just the second time since it was created in 2007 if they can get their first win over a southern hemisphere side since their 21-18 over Australia at the Millennium Stadium in 2008.

 What happened last time they met?

Another narrow defeat for Wales, but at one stage they were 30-16 down.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BMgtD9_Ko&w=560&h=315]

What do the bookies think? 

Our man Paddy Power is serving up Wales at 11/8, Australia at 4/7, and the draw at 20/1 with plenty of other markets available across today’s Autumn internationals. The stated odds are subject to change.

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