Wallabies out to salvage some pride
AUSTRALIA will look to end a tough year on a winning note when they face Wales at the Millennium Stadium here today.
Although they remain third in the world rankings, the Wallabies have won just two of their past 10 Tests, albeit one of those victories was against South Africa, and come into this game on the back of their first loss to Scotland in 27 years.
Arguably the most worrying thing for Wallaby coach Robbie Deans is that Warren Gatland, his Wales counterpart, has been complimentary about Australia.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Robbie and what he’s achieved in rugby and Super 14 and the successes that he’s had,” Gatland said.
“I think out of the three TriNations teams, they (Australia) are the team that’s played the most rugby.
“They’ve got a very young side and they will gain a huge amount of experience from this northern hemisphere tour. In two years’ time, I think you’ll see a really strong Australian side.
“They’ve been creating a lot. They haven’t been finishing things off, but they do go out and try and play rugby.”
However, Australia will have to improve their finishing and composure after dominating territory and possession yet still losing 9-8 to Scotland.
And a further worry for the Wallabies is that Wales are set to pose a greater attacking threat than that offered by the Scots.
Normally a record of two Test wins in 10 would have a coach worried about his job prospects.
But Deans’s case is different.
Australia Rugby Union boss John O’Neill invested so much of his reputation in appointing Deans as the Wallabies’ first foreign coach 18 months ago that he is unlikely to admit he’s made a mistake.
For this match, Dean Mumm, who captained the Wallabies to a 31-3 thrashing of Cardiff Blues on Tuesday, has been rewarded with a place in the Test side.
He now has the tricky task of opposing giant Wales lock Luke Charteris in the lineout after relegating Mark Chisholm to the bench.
Rotation sees David Pocock start at openside flanker while in the backs Digby Ioane is at outside centre instead of Ryan Cross, after a shoulder injury forced his late withdrawal at Murrayfield.
Scrumhalf Will Genia (knee), No 8 Wycliff Palu (neck) and loosehead prop Benn Robinson (shoulder) have all been passed fit. Kurtley Beale is on the bench after scoring two tries against Cardiff and the 20-year-old utility back is now in line to win his first cap.
Wales captain Ryan Jones will miss the Test because of a back problem. Andy Powell will move across the back row to replace Jones at No 8, with Dan Lydiate promoted to the starting line-up at blindside flanker.
The 21-year-old Lydiate is replaced on the bench by Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins will assume captaincy of the team. – Sapa-AFP