Posts Tagged ‘Wales v Australia’

I vaguely remember writing a similar title a few months ago, but with “England” instead of “Ireland” in the title. Well, this time it is our Celtic cousins who have impressed me, and Wales who have continued to disappoint and frustrate. On Saturday (5 November), we played Australia in the first of our 4-match autumn test series. I blogged about the series here. To say that we got off to a bad start would be an understatement, Wales were woeful and lost the match 32-8. We were 20-3 down at half time, totally outplayed in the first half by a better, faster, more creative Australia. Things improved very slightly in the second half, but not by much really. It is one of the worst performances by Wales of the last 5-6 years.


Wales slumped to a 32-8 defeat to Australia in the first of their 4-match autumn test series. We were woeful in the first half, but not really that much better in the second.

Later on Saturday, Ireland played world champions New Zealand in the first test of their autumn series. But, not in Dublin as one might have expected, but instead in Chicago! As part of the International Rugby Board’s attempts to broaden the interest in rugby, the match was played at Solider Field, home of the Chicago Bears. When I worked at the University of Chicago I drove past Soldier Field on dozens of occasions. I wonder what odds I would have got on a bet that it would be where Ireland would get their first ever victory over the mighty All Blacks! I am thrilled for Ireland, and as they play New Zealand a second time, in Dublin, in a few weeks’ time I hope that they can repeat it in front of their home fans.


Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time in 111 years of trying. The game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago, part of the attempt to increase the popularity of rugby in the USA.

But, back to Wales. Where on earth do we go from ┬áhere after such an abject performance? It is just because it is the first match of the series, and we will get better as the series progresses? Is it because interim coach Rob Howley needs to get his players to buy into his way of doing things? It is because Australia are a very very good side, and we just were outclassed? Our next match is against Argentina, who thrashed Ireland in the quarter finals of last year’s world cup. I await to see how we get on against them, Japan and South Africa before I come to any conclusions, but we could not have had a worse start to the series ­čśŽ

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Later today, Wales will take on Australia in their final group match in the rugby World Cup. Both countries have qualified from the “group of death”, with England (the hosts) failing to go through having lost to both Wales (28-25) and Australia (33-13) the last two Saturdays. Although both Wales and Australia have qualified for the quarter finals, the winner of Group A will have a much easier quarterfinal.

The winner of today’s Wales v Australia match, and hence of Group A, will play the runner-up of Group B, which could be either Scotland or Japan. The loser today will be runner-up of Group A, and they will face South Africa (who have topped Group B) in the quarter final, a much more difficult proposition. So, I would imagine both Wales and Australia will be going all-out to try to win this afternoon’s match.

Wales will take on Australia this afternoon at Twickenham, a neutral venue. The match starts at 16:45 BST.

Wales will take on Australia this afternoon at Twickenham, a neutral venue. The match starts at 16:45 BST.

Warren Gatland has gone for a very bold team in his attempt to top Group A. Normally Gatland’s selection policy is pretty conservative – he likes to stick with the players he knows well and whom he feels can perform at the highest level in big-game situations. But, on Thursday he surprised everyone with a few unexpected selections. He has brought George North into the centre, with Wales so depleted in that area due to injuries, and moved Liam Williams from full-back to wing. In at full-back is Gareth Anscombe, the New Zealander who has pledged his senior future to Wales by using his Welsh-heritage, after representing New Zealand at junior level. For the last season he has been playing his rugby for the Cardiff Blues; but I think I am right in saying that this has mainly been at outside half. However, I do believe he has some Super 15 experience playing at full-back, so hopefully he will slot in there quite easily.

Blind-side flanker Dan Lydiate is dropped, replaced by open-side flanker Justin Tipuric. According to Gatland, this is because Lydiate has a facial injury from the match against Fiji; but I cannot help feeling that he wanted to play two open-side flankers in Tipuric and Warburton to counter the Wallabies’ marauding pair of Hooper and Pocock. The breakdown will be a major area of contest, and it could be argued that it is where Wales won the game against England and where England lost the game against Australia.

The final surprise in the selection is that veteran loose-head prop Gethin Jenkins is dropped in favour of Paul Jones. Again, according to Gatland this is because Jenkins is feeling the strain of three matches in a short space of time, and Gatland wants to give him a break before the quarter finals. Whether the change is also to try to shore-up the creaking Welsh scrum is a distinct possibility; whilst Gethin Jenkins is almost unsurpassed as an loose-head prop in open play, his scrummaging is not as strong as Paul Jones’ and this is an area where Wales have looked distinctly shaky in their matches against both England and Fiji.

Gatland has gone for a bold selection in his attempt to beat Australia and top Group A.

Gatland has gone for a bold selection in his attempt to beat Australia and top Group A.

I have to say that Australia were very impressive against England; and Wales have not beaten them since 2008. In each of the last 5 or 6 times that we have played them we have lost by just a few points each time; and on more than one occasion have been leading going into the last few minutes. Hopefully these near misses will galvanise the Welsh team to a win this time, with the prize being a much easier path into the World Cup semifinals.

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The waiting is nearly over. At 5pm today, Wales will take on Australia in the long anticipated showdown between the two countries. As the table below shows, including the match at the World Cup in October 2011, Wales have played Australia a total of 6 times in the last two years, and have lost on each occasion, usually narrowly. Of the three Southern Hemisphere “superpowers”, Australia are the country Wales have beaten the most, and the country Wales have beaten the most in the professional era.


Having won the 6 Nations in March by annihilating England 30-3 in the final match, and a successful Lions’ tour where Wales contributed 10 of the starting lineup in the 3rd and decisive Test, beating Australia today could cap a very successful 2013 for the Welsh team and for Warren Gatland and his coaching team. I also believe that, if we win, it will really boost our confidence ahead of what I expect to be a very competitive 2014 6 Nations. Thankfully we will have Alex Cuthbert back in the team, and despite our injury problems in the centre I believe Wales are fielding a very strong team.


I saw yesterday morning that the Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has ratcheted things up nicely by saying that Wales are “worried” about falling to their ninth straight loss to Australia. Certainly it’s not a good record.

Wales have a woeful record against the three Southern Hemisphere "giants".

Wales have a woeful record against the three Southern Hemisphere “giants”.

England look resurgent, and France and Ireland also look vastly improved from earlier this year. The 2014 6 Nations sees Wales play England in Twickenham, which is a place we have only won 3 times in the last 25-odd years. Beating Australia today will boost Wales’ players’ confidence hugely, and Wales are very much a team whose style of play works so much better when they are playing with self belief. So DERE ‘MLAEN CYMRU, let’s beat Australia today and get that particular monkey off our back!

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