Wales should have enough to snatch a win over Wal­la­bies, but don’t bet on it...

South Wales Evening Post - - RUGBY - MARK OR­DERS @Marko­rders1• 01792 545556 mark.or­ders@me­di­awales.co.uk

THE BBC box­ing pro­gramme in the dim and dis­tant past had al­most run its course when the pre­sen­ter John In­verdale asked his stu­dio guest Nigel Benn a ques­tion about the state of the sport.

Benn pon­dered his re­sponse for sev­eral sec­onds be­fore re­ply­ing: “I liked it when it was on ITV. I don’t fol­low it no more.”

It was just a rumour that some peo­ple in the stu­dio that night heard a re­volver go­ing off sec­onds later, with the pro­ducer not seen there­after.

An against-the-grain com­ment can ran­kle...

Which takes us to Warren Gatland’s post-match press con­fer­ence last week­end and his per­ceived ir­ri­ta­tion at be­ing asked about the im­por­tance of Wales get­ting a mon­key off their back by beat­ing Aus­tralia, their World Cup pool op­po­nents, in the fi­nal meet­ing be­tween the sides ahead of next year’s global show­piece in Ja­pan.

The query punc­tured the pos­i­tiv­ity that had been in the air, with some feel­ing there was scope for the coach to view it as putting pres­sure on his play­ers. It’s not so much about get­ting the mon­key off the back,” he said.

“We’ve been un­lucky at times but it would be nice to win next week and get a re­sult.

“But the more im­por­tant game will be the pool game at the World Cup.”

He didn’t fire a death-ray stare at his in­quisi­tor but the chap wisely didn’t con­tinue with that line of ques­tion­ing.

THE PRES­SURE OF BE­ING FAVOURITES

Gatland has needed to be light on his feet this week as book­mak­ers from Al­ba­nia to Zim­babwe have in­stalled Wales as favourites to end their 13-game los­ing run against the Wal­la­bies.

On the same day that Wales’ coach an­nounced his team, his op­po­site num­ber Michael Cheika was laud­ing Gatland and call­ing the hosts “very well or­gan­ised and well drilled — it’s a great op­por­tu­nity for us to try to take the scalp”. Cheika is where ev­ery coach wants to be, lead­ing a side who are in the un­der­dog’s ken­nel.

Lose in Cardiff and he can point to the world rank­ings, which see Wales in third po­si­tion and his own team in sixth, and say to crit­ics: “What did you ex­pect?”

Win and there will be queues of peo­ple want­ing to pat his back.

Lit­tle won­der that Gatland has tried to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions, say­ing that any­one who writes off Aus­tralian teams does so at their peril.

His chal­lenge is to en­sure Wales deal with some­thing they have not had to con­tend with in this fix­ture for a decade or longer, namely the bur­den of favouritism.

The for­mer New Zealand hooker has had to tread the fine line be­tween bol­ster­ing his play­ers’ sense of be­lief and un­der­lin­ing that the Wal­la­bies are prob­a­bly not as bad as the whole world and his wife are mak­ing out.

AUS­TRALIA’S LOS­ING RUN

Yes, Cheika’s team have man­aged a measly three wins over their last 10 matches.

But six of those en­coun­ters have been against the top two sides in the global rat­ings, New Zealand and Ire­land.

And two more of them have been against South Africa, who have been show­ing signs of se­ri­ous improve­ment.

So, maybe, just maybe, a side that con­tains David Po­cock, Michael Hooper, Will Ge­nia, Bernard Fo­ley, Kurt­ley Beale and Is­rael Fo­lau could still have some­thing about them.

And yet it is un­de­ni­able that losses can frac­ture the con­fi­dence of even ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and so Wales will want to start well and plant fur­ther doubts in Wal­laby minds.

HIS­TORY LESSONS

It’s cer­tainly over­due for the tide to turn in the se­ries be­tween these two.

Once, Wales held an 8-5 lead in wins against Aus­tralia, but since the 1987 World Cup the Wal­la­bies have piled up 25 vic­to­ries out of 28 games, with one match drawn.

At times, the gulf has been enor­mous and em­bar­rass­ing.

Rewind to 1991 and an en­tire Wales squad sit­ting grim-faced at a post-match func­tion lis­ten­ing to an Aus­tralian co­me­dian gain­ing cheap laughs at their ex­pense.

Just hours ear­lier the team had been a laugh­ing stock on the pitch as New South Wales handed out a 71-8 hid­ing.

Af­ter the comic had done his stuff, tour man­ager Clive Row­lands is said to have ranted and raged on the bus tak­ing the Welsh party back to their ho­tel.

Welsh rugby came close to hit­ting rock bot­tom on that trip and in the process learned lessons that ring true to­day.

One of those in­volves al­ways be­ing re­al­is­tic about the chal­lenge ahead.

In his book, Rais­ing the Dragon: A Clar­ion Call to Welsh Rugby, Robert Jones re­calls the then Wales coach Ron Wal­dron de­scrib­ing David Cam­pese as a “s **** y-ar­sed winger” dur­ing his pre-match talk.

Cam­pese was a bit more than that. In fact, he was a lot more than that.

He couldn’t have heard the com­ment.

But the leg­endary flyer, as close to a rugby ma­gi­cian as there’s been, went on to have a blinder, any­way, scor­ing five tries.

Ev­i­dently, Welsh rugby’s am­a­teur­era anal­y­sis de­part­ment – which may or may not have served the then na­tional coach with that piece of in­tel­li­gence about one of the most ex­cit­ing wings the world has seen – was still re­fin­ing its act.

There is no Campo in Aus­tralia’s team this week­end, but there are

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