World Rugby

Autumn Nations Series - Wales vs Australia Preview

Autumn Nations Series - Wales vs Australia Preview

One of rugby’s most up and down rivalries returns for the final round of the 2022 Autumn Nations series as the Wallabies travel to Cardiff to take on Wales.

Nov 24, 2022
Autumn Nations Series - Wales vs Australia Preview

One of rugby’s most up and down rivalries returns for the final round of the 2022 Autumn Nations series as the Wallabies travel to Cardiff to take on Wales.

 

Few cities in World Rugby compare to Cardiff on game day due in no small part to the Principality Stadium being located smack bang in the city centre.

 

The city has played host to a number of barn burners between the two sides since the first clash in 1908 which Wales won by a singular point 9 – 8.

 

 

The Lowdown 

 

Both sides come into the clash desperately in need of a win as they look to close out what has been a rollercoaster season for both sides.

 

Starting with the June internationals where both sides lost their series 2 – 1 as the Wallabies let a golden opportunity against England slip whilst Wales lost out to the Boks in South Africa.

 

Admittedly Wales would have left June feeling more positive than the Wallabies as the win in South Africa was their first ever over the Boks in the republic.

 

On the flipside of that coin, Wayne Pivac’s side could well have left South Africa with a 2 – 1 series victory as they let a significant lead slip in the first test.

 

For Dave Rennie’s Wallabies, a win in test one against England was followed by two humbling losses with the final test in Sydney being an all-time low.

 

Since then, Wales have recorded a historic first ever loss to minnows Georgia and were obliterated by the All Blacks with a victory over Argentina sandwiched in-between.

 

Rennie and the Wallabies on the other hand have been the most inconsistent team in World Rugby as they seemingly go from world beaters to nobodies from week-to-week.

 

In the Rugby Championship they split their series 1-1 with both the Boks and Argentina and should’ve done the same with New Zealand only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory due to a time-wasting penalty in the last minute. 

 

In the Autumn Nations Series, the story remained much the same or slightly worse as they opened with a narrow win over Scotland in Edinburgh. What followed was an unbelievable battle with France which they lost by a singular point due to Damien Penaud’s sensational individual try.

 

A week later they would make history for all the wrong reasons as they became the first Wallabies team to lose to Italy. Possibly overestimating his side’s strength in depth, Rennie made eleven changes as his men fell to a 28 – 27 loss to an improving Italy side.

 

Finally, last weekend’s arm wrestle with Ireland proved once again that the Wallabies have the ability to go the distance with the best in the World as they lost narrowly 13 – 10 to the World’s number one side in Dublin.

 

Wallabies Team News

 

Unfortunately for Rennie and his staff the last five weeks and particularly the Dublin clash has taken its toll in terms of injuries. Thus, this weekend’s clash will feature seven changes for the visitors.

 

Headlining the selections is flyhalf Ben Donaldson who will make his first start in the number ten position as he gets the nod ahead of Noah Lolesio.  

 

Joining Donaldson in the halfbacks is his NSW Waratahs teammate Jake Gordon whilst Reece Hodge moves to the inside centre position. 

 

Former captain Michael Hooper misses out due to concussion in the forward pack that will feature several changes. Replacing Hooper is Fraser McReight who has been a revelation this season.

 

Elsewhere in the backrow, Rob Valenti is also injured and is replaced by Langi Gleeson who is getting his first start in the gold jersey.

 

Star prop Taniela Tupou will be on the side-lines for several months having ruptured his Achilles in Dublin.

 

When discussing the season to date, Rennie said, “If you look at wins and losses it will be a poor season.” 

 

“We have had a lot of tight games, and games we should have won. We need to look at that and turn pressure into points at key moments.”

 

“I definitely think we are a better side. We have a lot of firepower to come back in and I have no doubt we can put together a strong side and build on what we have done.”

 

“We can take belief out of the last few weeks, particularly the performances in Dublin and Paris against really strong sides, but we need to be better.”

 

“If we win a couple of key moments, we win a couple of Tests at strong venues, so we will take confidence from that, but we need to be better.”

 

On paper this clash will be arguably the Wallabies easiest of the year as Wales are sorely out of form having only won three games from eleven this season.

Despite this the Wallabies will know just how dangerous a cornered Welsh side will be as Rennie noted, “We definitely expect a response as they will be hurting, similar to how we were hurting a couple of weeks ago.” 

 

“I have no doubt they are under pressure because it comes down to results. But I am sure they will be highly motivated for a big performance this weekend.”

 

Welsh Team News

 

Backs to the wall is the theme of the week for a Welsh team who are under immense pressure.

 

Head coach Wayne Pivac is firmly on the hot seat with his job at risk as Wales are experiencing one of their worst seasons in a very long time.

 

Gone are the days of Warren Gatland papering over the cracks, this Welsh team and the Welsh Rugby Union as a whole are on the precipice of disaster. 

 

Not only are they coping stick from the media and fans but now legends of the Welsh game are coming out strong against the WRU.

 

Former captain Sam Warburton has taken aim at the administrators of the game saying “It's such a mess...I really do fear for Wales over the next five years” 

 

Writing in his column for The Times on Wednesday, Warburton went in depth into the issues he sees in the Welsh game.

 

"The game in Wales needs the biggest reform in its history if there are not to be repeats of the unacceptable defeat by Georgia last Saturday,"

 

"This situation has been brewing for some time both on and off the field. The system is just not working. The whole thing needs to be wiped clean and a fresh start made. Sadly, I know it won't happen. I know I will say these things and we will be in the same situation in 12 months.

 

"I genuinely want the best for Welsh rugby. I am a Cardiff boy but if the Scarlets ended up winning the European Cup I would be over the moon. It would be amazing for Welsh rugby. I want everyone in Wales to succeed.

 

"I would never let any bias towards Cardiff hinder my decision-making and that, unfortunately, is one of the problems in Welsh rugby: there is too much parochialism.

 

"And the amateur game still has way too much say. Of the 12 directors on the Welsh Rugby Union's board, there are eight community members. That is like having eight people on the board of a company that are contributing to just one part of the business. It's just way too many.” 

 

"There should be one community member on that board. The community game is hugely important, of course it is, and most of the people involved are well-intentioned, but it should not have eight representatives on the board of a company with a turnover of £100m. It is farcical.

 

"It is a governance structure that is stuck in the Stone Age. Unless that changes, very little else will change." He concluded.

 

Pretty damning stuff for a union that has punched well above it’s weight between 2008-2019 under the tutelage of Gatland.

 

Focusing in on the team for this weekend, Pivac has made six changes to the side that lost to Georgia. 

 

As is the case with South Africa, Wales will be without key individuals Louis Rees-Zammit and Nick Tompkins who have returned to their English Premiership clubs as they clash takes place outside of the international test window.

 

The most notable change for Wales is the return of Rugby’s most capped player in history in Alun Wyn Jones who makes only his second start of the year.

 

Replacing Tompkins is Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins who will make his international debut alongside the immensely experienced George North.

 

Another experienced campaigner returns with Leigh Halfpenny making his first international start of the year at fullback.

 

Elsewhere in the backline, changes include the return of the electric Rio Dyer and the creative Gareth Anscombe who take over from Josh Adams and Rhys Priestland respectively who both drop to the bench.

 

Speaking to the media today, Pivac spoke about the changes, "Some players have come back that were not involved last week," Pivac said.

 

"Certainly, it's a side we've selected to get a result which we're desperately seeking.

 

"They've gelled well at the start of the week and we look forward to seeing how we go."

 

Pivac Highlighted experienced number eight Talupe Faletau who is set to play his 100th international games – 95th for Wales to go with his 5 for the British and Irish Lions.”

 

"Toby [Faletau] is a world-class player and it's testament to his hard work and commitment that he's making his 100th Test appearance this weekend," 

 

"I know it will be a proud day for him and his family." Pivac concluded

 

Naturally Pivac was asked if he felt under pressure to have a performance this weekend.

"The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week's performance." 

 

"It's not the result that anybody wanted. It's not the result that anyone expected. We've gone through a review process.

 

"We know what went wrong and what is required to get the result this weekend."

 

Wales do however come into this clash in the ascendancy in terms of recent results between the two sides having narrowly won the previous three meetings between the two sides. Despite this Pivac is well aware that this week is a much tougher prospect that last week’s opponent Georgia.

 

"Clearly this will be a step up," added Pivac.

 

"We're playing an Australian side that will have a lot of changes for probably similar reasons to ourselves over the last month or so with injuries, but what we do know about Australia is that they're a dangerous side whatever team they put out.

 

"We've seen that with the close games in this autumn series. So, we're expecting a very tough battle."

 

Prediction

 

Three wins for Wales this season is simply unacceptable as is four wins for the Wallabies. 

 

In terms of strength of schedule the Wallabies have had the harder of the two but would not have budgeted a loss to Italy when the season started.

 

Wales too would not have believed that a loss to Italy and Georgia would be on the cards but yet here we are. 

 

Both coaches are under immense pressure but based on the reporting currently circulating Rennie remains safe in his roles whilst Pivac could well be on his way out just ten months out from the World Cup.

 

With both sides making so many changes it muddies the waters somewhat as different combinations will not have been bedded in and tested before the 3.15pm kick-off

 

Based purely on the high points we have seen thus far this season the Wallabies should be confident in taking this one out. 

 

Wales are without their best player in Rees-Zammit whilst winger Mark Nawaqanitawase looks like the next great Wallaby outside back.

 

With things looking slightly brighter for the visitors, Australia will take this one by eight point.


Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, North, Hawkins, Dyer; Anscombe, T Williams, G Thomas, Owens, D Lewis, Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Morgan, Tipuric (c), Faletau.

 

Replacements: Elias, R Jones, Francis, Carter, Macleod, Hardy, Priestland, Adams.

 

Australia: Wright, Petaia, Ikitau, Hodge, Nawaqanitawase, Donaldson, Gordon, Slipper (c), Fatinga, Alaalatao, Frost, Neville, Holloway, Gleeson

 

Replacements: Longergan, Robertson, Talakai, Hanigan, Samu, McDermott, Lolesio, Campbell.


Written by Philip Bendon