Gatland set for Lions encore
Gatland set for Lions encoreSHARE
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will face Australia in a fourth Test this year regardless of what happens Down Under.
The Welsh Rugby Union on Wednesday confirmed the final fixture in its end-of-year series, to be played at the Millennium Stadium this November, and it is the Wallabies who will bring the curtain down on the four match-campaign with a Saturday fixture on November 30 in the James Bevan Trophy clash.
Returning Wales coach Gatland, the 15 Welshmen on tour and further six members of the Wales backroom staff who are on a sabbatical with the Lions, face the mouth-watering prospect of a Millennium Stadium encore against the world No.2 ranked side back on home turf.
Whether the Wallabies arrive in Cardiff as Lion tamers or with a point to prove against the Lions’ Welsh contingent remains to be seen and is a question which will keep rugby fans around the world on the edge of their seats.
But there is guaranteed to be unfinished business in some quarters when Australia boss Robbie Deans and Gatland meet head to head in a fourth and final international of 2013.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: “Wales once again have the chance to test themselves against a selection of the very best sides in the world this November.
“I am delighted to have secured this extra fixture following a long period of negotiation in a very competitive global rugby market. Our international planning is now well in place until 2019. Welsh rugby fans can be confident of seeing the best teams in the world regularly over the coming years.”
The current, double, Six Nations champions are no strangers to facing the Wallabies – having played them six times in the last two years, and have beaten their Southern Hemisphere opponents as recently as 2008.
Of the Southern Hemisphere superpower nations Wales’ record is best against Australia, showing 10 victories for the Principality in 36 meetings with 25 losses and one draw (in 2006) in the 100-plus-year-old fixture.
And the clash this November comes after visits to the Millennium Stadium from South Africa, Argentina and Tonga.
Wales themselves will be fresh from a tour to Japan – led by caretaker coach Robin McBryde – and will meet up with their Lions counterparts looking for wins in November to further cement their status as champions of Europe after consecutive Six Nations titles in 2012 and 2013.
Australia captain James Horwill said: “Cardiff is one of the great destinations in world rugby. The population in Wales loves its rugby. They produce an enthusiasm and a fervor for the game that rivals New Zealand and South Africa in its intensity. But the Kiwis and the South Africans don’t sing as well!”
Australia head coach Robbie Deans said: “You haven’t experienced the passion and intensity of international rugby in totality until you have played Wales in Cardiff. Playing Wales there is one of the ultimate assignments in the game, especially in the recent era where they have been the dominant team in the Northern Hemisphere.
“I think our recent history shows that we have always lifted for those games as we’ve had to against a quality opponent. The numerous games against Wales in recent times have only enhanced the relationship and the rivalry between the two teams, not diminished it.”
Wales November internationals:
Wales v South Africa – November 9, Kick-off: 5.30pm
Wales v Argentina – November 16, Kick-off: 2.30pm
Wales v Tonga – November 22, Kick-off: 7.30pm
Wales v Australia – November 29, Kick-off: TBC