Wednesday 18 October 2017

Wales set to face Aussie onslaught

Wales could face the full might of Australia's All Blacks destroyers in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has revealed a clean bill of health among his squad, despite the game's punishing nature in Hong Kong two days ago when Australia prevailed 26-24 in an epic encounter.

And that threatens to leave Wales with a huge task in combating searing attacking threats like Quade Cooper, Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale.

"We will pick what we deem to be our best line-up against Wales to hopefully perform and get a result," said Deans, after arriving in the Welsh capital today.

"It appears we have come through the New Zealand game unscathed and have the potential to name an unchanged side, which makes a change.

"Continuity is starting to serve us. Those who played in Hong Kong have done their chances of being selected on Saturday no harm."

Australia crushed Wales 33-12 at the Millennium Stadium a year ago, but recent Test history shows it has not always been a happy hunting ground for the Wallabies.

They lost 21-18 in 2008 - Wales' only win from nine attempts against Tri Nations opposition under coach Warren Gatland, were held 29-29 two years before that and suffered a 24-22 loss in 2005.

"Confidence and belief are good if well-founded and well-applied," added Deans.

"If we were to make any presumptions about Saturday it would be to our disadvantage. The result (against New Zealand) will benefit the side - there is a fair bit of relief.

"But Wales played very well in New Zealand in the summer, far better than the scoreboard indicated. They played a lot of good rugby, but they did not get a lot of reward for it.

"I have not seen much of the European teams, but the new directive at the breakdown seems to be having a bearing on the game.

"Teams have the ability to play the game in the way that suits them, and it highlights the elements of rugby union that make it the distinct game that it is.

"Teams who want to maul can; sides who want to play with width can; and those who prefer a kicking game can employ that. It is the ultimate contest now, and teams can build momentum.

"To be frank, it was defensively-oriented previously. You only have to go back to the last World Cup to see the teams that were doing well were, essentially, the teams that did not have the ball.

"It is important that next year's World Cup has a different emphasis. Another spectacle like 2007 would not be great for the game.

"There are still a lot of turnovers in a game, but they are transparent. Players know when they are breaching the laws and referees are picking up on it.

"We are getting more consistency, and that is good for spectators. There is nothing worse than when people do not understand decisions - it becomes a difficult game to market."

Australia will start Saturday's contest as firm favourites, with Cooper - the most inventive fly-half in world rugby on current form - again looking to pull the strings.

But Deans said: "The challenge for Quade will be different to that in the Tri-Nations, and he had an insight into that in our last outing against England.

"Teams will choose tactics which suit them and deny the opposition. England were successful in denying us in Sydney.

"Warren will have seen that and be hatching some plans.

"What happens in the future remains to be seen, but he (Cooper) is getting an opportunity. He is a bit like us - we are not the complete package, but we are working hard at it."

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