Welsh wary of Wallaby wizards

Tue, 26 Nov 2013 12:30
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Defence coach Shaun Edwards says Wales must stop the joint threat of Quade Cooper and Israel Folau if they are to get the better of Australia.

Defence coach Shaun Edwards says Wales must stop the joint threat of Quade Cooper and Israel Folau if they are to get the better of Australia at the Millennium Stadium.

Ewen McKenzie's Wallabies are in Cardiff for the final game of their northern hemisphere tour, but Wales have their eyes set on what would be a first win over them since 2008.

Just a handful of points have separated the two sides in their last few encounters, Australia 3-0 series winners over Wales in June 2012.

Despite the convincing scoreline, that series was decided by just nine points across the three matches while last year, only a last-minute Kurtley Beale try broke Welsh hearts.

This year saw a number of the Welsh squad and backroom staff feature for the British and Irish Lions on the tour to Australia, most notably of course, head coach Warren Gatland and skipper Sam Warburton. That time around, the result was different with Gatland's side savouring a 2-1 Test series victory.

Wales are targeting a similar success this weekend but if that is to be achieved, Edwards knows his side need to negate both flyhalf Cooper and rugby league convert Folau.

"Towards the end of the Rugby Championship, Australia were running tries in for fun and we're very aware of their attacking prowess," said the former Wigan man.

"Israel at the back is a great operator and the two halfbacks have a great understanding between each other. It will be a high quality Test match but I think we're in better shape than this time last year.

"Folau is a pretty special athlete, he's an incredible rugby player. His aerial skills, his footwork, his speed. I could go on forever about his talents but we have to shut him down and that's not easy.

"Israel is a talented player but he's not the only player who can be a problem for us, all the backs are exceptional players," he added.

On Cooper, who has been dovetailing well with Will Genia since being handed the vice-captaincy recently, Edwards added: "Cooper is a player I have huge respect for. He's incredibly creative and seems to be better now than when he burst on the scene.

"He's a player who will take up a lot of my thinking time in the next few days as we have to counteract him and the options that come off him. His link with Genia is a huge part of their offence.

"We have to play for 80 minutes, we can't switch off. Tactically we have to be absolutely perfect but it's no use me talking about it, we have to do it on Saturday."

Edwards confirmed that Paul James and Perpignan pair James Hook and Luke Charteris have returned to their clubs and won't be available this weekend. James King has joined the squad while Scott and Liam Williams are progressing well from their respective toe and rib problems.

Alex Cuthbert, who was not named in Gatland's original squad due to an ankle injury sustained while on duty with the Cardiff Blues, is continuing to be assessed by the Wales medical team.

Edwards said: "You always want your best players fit and Alex is a player who's scored the winning try in the last two Six Nations.

"He's certainly a player we're interested in being available for the weekend. I think we'll have a strong team out on Saturday.

"Australia have had the edge on us recently with some very, very close scorelines but I think we've progressively got closer to them.

"This is a game everyone has been waiting for, let's make no bones about it."

Source: Welsh Rugby Union