Thursday 21 September 2017

Cuthbert boost for Wales as Gatland invokes pride of Lions

Alex Cuthbert: back in Wales team
Alex Cuthbert: back in Wales team

Mick Cleary

WARREN GATLAND has urged his Wales team to "fight to their last breath" to end their woeful record against the southern hemisphere superpowers.

The Wales head coach has named 11 Lions in his side to face Australia at the Millennium Stadium, trusting that the spirit that helped them rise to the occasion in July will be repeated on Saturday.

Wales have lost eight matches in succession against the Wallabies, who they last beat in 2008. Since Gatland took over there has been only one win against the leading teams from south of the equator.

Gatland has been boosted by the return to fitness of strike-runner Alex Cuthbert after a toe injury. Cuthbert, with nine tries in his 18 Tests, adds real potency to the Welsh attack.

Dan Biggar gets the nod at fly-half, Scott Williams comes back in the centre after his own battle to overcome injury, while there is an all-Lions back five in the pack of Ian Evans, Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau and Sam Warburton.

Gatland's aim is to emulate the hard-nosed mentality of the southern hemisphere. "It is their never-give-in attitude, that is their mindset," said Gatland.

Gatland has proved time and again in Europe that he can bring teams to the right pitch, his Wales side securing two Grand Slam triumphs in his charge as well as a Six Nations title eight months ago when they demolished England, 30-3.

He knows, though, that he has to find a way past the likes of Australia if Wales are to approach the Rugby World Cup in two years' time with real credibility. Saturday's encounter has more resonance than usual with the Wallabies, as well as England, being in the same pool.

"At the highest level, the game is based on a lot of emotion and you have to bring that emotion with you for the full 80 minutes," said Gatland.

The respective back threes are likely to have a seminal influence on the outcome with the Wallabies hosting one of the players of the year, Israel Folau, in their ranks.

"He is their danger man," said Cuthbert. "There is no end to his skills, be it in his footwork or in the air. We have to keep him away from the ball."

WALES (v Australia) -- L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, O Williams, S Williams, G North; D Biggar, M Phillips; G Jenkins, R Hibbard, Rhodri Jones; A-W Jones, I Evans; D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Reps: K Owens, R Bevington, S Lee, Ryan Jones, J Tipuric, R Williams, R Priestland, L Williams.

Irish Independent

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