Australia v Wales: Six Nations holders eye rare win Down Under
Wales will be looking to confirm their arrival as a major force in international rugby against Australia in their three Test series
Wales will be looking to confirm their arrival as a major force in international rugby with the first of three Tests against the current Tri Nations champions Australia on Saturday.
While winning the Six Nations was a highly commendable achievement, it will count for nothing Down Under. Scotland can’t be denied the plaudits after their remarkable victory over Australia last week, but Wales will be facing a different beast in Brisbane.
Despite still missing some of their most influential backs, the Wallabies will have some forwards returning – including five changes in the pack alone – and will be playing in more familiar conditions this week that will suit their high tempo of play.
Stand in coach Rob Howley is well aware of the task that awaits his young team.
“We all appreciate the enormity of the task ahead of us, the long-term stats don’t make happy reading for the Welsh against the Wallabies,” he told BBC Sport.
“As recently as this season we have two losses racked up against Australian opposition and we are determined to stop that trend.”
The chance to avenge recent defeats is being used as a key motivational catalyst for the Welsh.
“They [Wales] are a little bit angry they haven’t beaten Australia in the recent past. It is about getting there a step quicker than we are used to doing and we have to realise it is a bit of a quicker game and we have to adjust to that extra pace,” Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards told walesonline.co.uk last week.
The Welsh will receive a massive boost with the return of their talisman and captain Sam Warburton. The open side flanker’s outstanding work-rate and leadership qualities will be key when it comes to clamping down on the Australian attacks and providing shape to the Welsh defence which will be given the sternest of tests.
Coupled with his formidable back-row partners Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate, he will also be tasked with keeping Warburton’s Australian counterpart, the outstanding David Pocock, from snaffling turnover ball at any given opportunity.
Elsewhere Wales have their experienced backline all fit and will be looking to Llanelli Scarlets’ powerhouse wing George North to provide his usual penetrating runs.
In the centre Jamie Roberts will be a loss at twelve but in Scott Williams, they have an able replacement – England fans will remember only too well when he came on at Twickenham and scored with his first touch of the match in the Six Nations.
Wales have a fantastic chance to win this weekend and should rightly feel confident. Australia looked shapeless in attack without the magic of Cooper, O’Conner and Beale to call on.
The key to Wales winning their first major Southern Hemisphere game since 1987 on Saturday will be their ability to retain their work-rate until the 80th minute while not being afraid to play their own high-tempo attacking style.
However, with almost a first-choice Welsh team to pick from and some experience to call on from the bench, Australia will have to be at the top of their game if they are to resist the Northern Hemisphere champions.