South­ern hemi­sphere win needed

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

LON­DON — War­ren Gat­land may have tried to play it down, but the Wales coach knows bet­ter than any­one how much it would mean to his side to beat Aus­tralia in Cardiff to­day.

Reign­ing Six Na­tions cham­pi­ons Wales may have won two Euro­pean Grand Slams since Gat­land be­came their coach in 2008, but his adopted coun­try’s record in the same time against south­ern hemi­sphere gi­ants New Zealand, South Africa and Aus­tralia in the same pe­riod is dire, with just one win and 21 de­feats.

Wales have lost their last eight Tests against Aus­tralia, al­beit four of those re­verses have been by three points or fewer, most re­cently in last year’s fix­ture at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium where Kurt­ley Beale’s late try con­demned the Welsh to a 14-12 de­feat.

The los­ing streak is all the more con­cern­ing for Wales given they have been drawn along­side Aus­tralia and 2015 hosts Eng­land in the same World Cup “group of death”.

Gat­land tried to ex­plain that poor run of re­sults by say­ing: “Peo­ple have got to be aware that prob­a­bly in the past we’ve used [the Novem­ber in­ter­na­tion­als] as a prepa­ra­tion for the Six Na­tions be­cause that’s our bread and but­ter — th­ese are friendlies.

“Our fo­cus has changed a bit this au­tumn.”

But unim­pressed Wal­laby coach Ewen McKen­zie said: “They’ve de­cided sud­denly it’s time to ac­tu­ally go out and beat those teams, I don’t know why they weren’t de­cid­ing that last year or the year be­fore.

“He [Gat­land] has been at it since 2008, he’s had plenty of time to make that de­ci­sion.”

This year Gat­land coached the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons to a 2-1 se­ries win in Aus­tralia and 11 of the play­ers from that squad are in his Wales start­ing lineup, in­clud­ing fit-again wing Alex Cuth­bert and pow­er­house flyer Ge­orge North.

Com­plet­ing the back three is full­back Leigh Half­penny, man of the se­ries in Aus­tralia, but still ea­ger to trans­fer that form from the red shirt of the Li­ons to the red of Wales.

“We have been close many times now, one or two points in it,” Half­penny said.

“It has been very frus­trat­ing at times when we’ve come off and felt like we played the bet­ter rugby, but it didn’t quite win the game.

“Now we have to go to that next level by beat­ing the south­ern hemi­sphere teams like Aus­tralia,” added Half­penny, a nom­i­nee for the In­ter­na­tional Rugby Board player of the year award.

One thing both packs in par­tic­u­lar will hope for is an im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of the Mil­len­nium’s no­to­ri­ously poor pitch, oth­er­wise scrums, as was some­times the case on an un­usu­ally un­sta­ble sur­face at Mur­ray­field, could well be­come a lot­tery. — Sapa-AFP.

PHOTO: GETTY

Wales coach War­ren Gat­land will hope his team’s for­tunes change against south­ern hemi­sphere op­po­nents when they take on Aus­tralia at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium in Cardiff to­day.

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