Friday 6 December 2019

Cardiff a hard sell as Australia prepare for tough battle

Australia Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley in action during a Wallabies training session
Australia Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley in action during a Wallabies training session

James Corrigan

If muscle is what it takes for Wales to record their first win over a southern hemisphere giant in six years and 21 outings, then the crowd will not complain, even if there were almost 20,000 unsold tickets for this match yesterday lunchtime.

Those who stay away could miss a famous day for Wales rugby, and one that could be significant with the two teams in the same World Cup group next year. Despite a new, go-faster pitch, the Millennium Stadium roof being closed and the Wales management's insistence that they are expansive, the Australians still expect Wales "to try to run through us, not around us".

That comment was made by Bernard Foley. The outside-half might be making his first start against Wales, but he seems certain that the Wallabies' primary challenge will be physical as they bid for their 10th successive win against the Dragons and so give new coach Michael Cheika a triumphant start to his Test-match career.

"Wales are a very good outfit, big and confrontational," Foley said. "The fact they picked Jamie Roberts and George North at centre shows they are not going to change."

Cheika apparently agrees, taking the unusual step of going in with six forwards among the eight replacements. Quade Cooper, the mercurial No10, was the player omitted yesterday as Cheika prepares for an encounter which is likely to be an arm wrestle before opening up. Robin McBryde, the forwards coach, spelt out Wales' task and dismissed the notion that the Wallabies will be wobbly after Ewen McKenzie's abrupt departure three weeks ago, meaning they are on their third coach in 15 months.

"They have (under Cheika) a licence to play, which suits them," McBryde said. "We've got to be water-tight defensively, put the Australians under a bit of pressure."

Wales - L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, G North, J Roberts, L Williams, D Biggar, R Webb, P James, R Hibbard, S Lee, J Ball, A Wyn Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Reps: S Baldwin, G Jenkins, R Jones, B Davies, J Tipuric, M Phillips, R Priestland, C.

Australia - I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, C Leali'ifano, J Tomane, B Foley, N Phipps, J Slipper, S Fainga'a, S Kepu, S Carter, R Simmons, S McMahon, M Hooper (capt): B McCalman. Reps: J Hanson, T Faulkner, B Alexander, J Horwill, W Skelton, M Hodgson, W Genia, R Horne.

Ref - C Joubert (South Africa).

Wales v Australia Live BBC 1, 2.30

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