Preview: Australia v Wales
Fri, 22 Jun 2012 07:17
Wales will have a final chance to claim a Wallaby scalp on their tour when they run out at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions have proven a stern test for Australia on this tour, and will be determined to bounce back after having victory slip through their grasp with the last kick of the match last week.
An away victory over a southern hemisphere power would be an invaluable experience for many of the young stars in the promising Welsh side, and after suffering such a heartbreaking loss last week this game represents a chance for them to show some mental toughness.
After naming an unchanged starting line-up from last week it is clear that Wales are treating this last match as an opportunity to refine their effort and land one meaningful blow to end their tour on a positive note.
They will be up against a Wallaby side that will be looking for a more assured and composed performance after showing good determination to scrap their way to two fighting victories to claim the series.
Robbie Deans' squad has been disrupted by injury and a demanding playing schedule, so they will take heart from the attitude they showed against Wales to bounce back from defeat to Scotland.
However, they have looked far from polished at times and the major challenge for the hosts will be to show the kind of fluency that saw them claim the Tri-Nations crown last year.
The Wallabies have looked dominant at times against Wales, but have not been able to put together an 80-minute performance yet and will be intent on showing that they can apply pressure consistently.
Any dominant Test match performance has to be built on a powerful and accurate set-piece display and both teams have room for improvement in this regard.
Wales will want to improve their shaky line-out and Australia have to present a sustained threat in the scrums as this is an area which is sure to be seriously tested in the Rugby Championship.
With the series over as a contest both teams will see this as an opportunity to break free and showcase the kind of running rugby that both nations are renowned for, which could make for an entertaining spectacle.
Players to watch:
For Australia: All eyes will be on Kurtley Beale who takes his place at fullback in his first Test since the World Cup. He will be expected to add some zip to the backline alongside Digby Ioane whilst Berrick Barnes will be looking for another convincing performance at flyhalf. In the pack new lock Sitaleki Timani will have to produce a big performance to justify his selection, and skipper David Pocock will be expected to disrupt Wales at the breakdown.
For Wales: Outside centre Jonathan Davies is a creative force in midfield and will be key to putting the dangerous ball-carriers outside him in some space. Flank Dan Lydiate is a ferocious defender and will present a physical threat along with hard-working lock Alun Wyn Jones. Up front look out for loosehead Gethin Jenkins who carries ball and turns it over as well as anyone, while hooker Matthew Rees will be under pressure to improve his accuracy at line-out time.
Head to head: The two fullbacks Kurtley Beale and Leigh Halfpenny are amongst the most dangerous in their teams and will set the tone on attack. Both captains David Pocock and Sam Warburton are openside flanks, so their battle for the ball on the ground could be pivotal to the outcome. In the front row the duel at scrum-time between Wallaby loosehead Benn Robinson and Welsh tighthead Adam Jones could play a big role in which team gains the upper hand at the set-piece.
2012: Australia won 25-23, Melbourne
2012: Australia won 27-19, Brisbane
2011: Australia won 24-18, Cardiff
2011: Australia won 21-18, Auckland
2010: Australia won 25-16, Cardiff
2009: Australia won 3012, Cardiff
2008: Wales won 21-18, Cardiff
2007: Australia won 32-20, Cardiff
2007: Australia won 31-0, Brisbane
2007: Australia won 29-23, Sydney
2006: Match drawn 29-29, Cardiff
2005: Wales won 24-22, Cardiff
Prediction: Both teams have something to prove, so there should be plenty of intensity as the teams are very evenly matched. Wales will be the hungrier side after missing out twice in a row so we are backing them to claim a narrow victory.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nic White, 22 Anthony Faingaa.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Rhys Webb, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams.
Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15.00 (05.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Clear but cool. Max 15 min 6, wind 15k/ph
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garrat Williamson (New Zealand), Jonathon White (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
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