Australia’s tough year can end on high if history repeats itself in Wales
Preview Australia v Wales Principality Stadium, 5.20 Live on TV: BBC2
As Australia seek refuge as they approach the end of a stormy year, Cardiff is not the last place they would have chosen to dock.
The Wallabies have won their past 13 internationals against Wales, often securing victory in the closing moments. They have won by a double-figure margin only twice in that run but their dominance over Wales is such that since losing to them in the 1987 World Cup third-place play-off, they have been beaten only twice in 28 Tests. While form favours Wales, who are on their best run of victories for five years, history is a counterweight to Australia’s sequence of nine defeats in 12 Tests since they won in Cardiff a year ago.
“I would say, not that I care, that the majority of guys in our team would not know about our run against Wales,” says the Australia head coach, Michael Cheika. “You always have to look at the 80 minutes ahead of you. Everything else is conjecture and small talk . . . We don’t mind running as the underdog: we will enjoy that status and get to Cardiff, where we love playing.”
Australia made the last World Cup final, but they are virtually back to where they were in 2014 when Cheika took over, the third head coach in little more than a year after Robbie Deans was sacked and Ewen McKenzie resigned. Their form since then has been more down than up: since losing to New Zealand in the World Cup final, they have played 39 internationals, winning 16 and drawing two. They have lost to England and Ireland in series at home and were beaten by Scotland in a one-off match in Sydney in 2017. They are sixth in the world rankings, and lost at home to Argentina in the Rugby Championship only to overturn a 31-7 half-time deficit in Salta three weeks later.
Yet on paper, they look at least as strong as Wales. Seven of today’s side have won more than 50 caps, along with four of the replacements, and in Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, David Pocock and Michael Hooper have players whose names would be mentioned in a selection meeting for a World XV.
Wales won six of their first eight matches with Australia in Cardiff, but the Wallabies have prevailed in 15 of the next 18 with the sides drawing in 2006.
Patrick Cohn, an American mental games coach, wrote that an inability to beat one particular team over a long period of time can have a devastating effect on how you approach a game.
While Wales have not defeated the Wallabies this decade, New Zealand have done so 22 times, England nine, South Africa seven, Ireland five, Scotland three and France and Argentina twice. – Guardian