Wales will be ready for the Aussies now

The Rugby Paper - - Autumn Internationals - SHANE WIL­LIAMS

Let’s hear it for the Welsh de­fence! An­other awe­some dis­play by the red wall en­sured Alun Wyn Jones not only lifted the Dod­die Weir Cup, but also pro­vided Wales an open­ing Au­tumn win for the first time since 2002.

Now they’ve got to up their game to take on, and hope­fully fi­nally beat, the Aus­tralia this week­end. How­ever flawed a per­for­mance it was against Scot­land, who were equally as rusty as Wales, I’m far more con­vinced now we can end that run of 13 suc­ces­sive de­feats to the tire­some Wallabies be­cause the play­ers have got a full, tough 80 min­utes un­der their belts.

When you look at Wales in the au­tumn, they his­tor­i­cally get bet­ter as the month goes on. The longer they spend to­gether, the more co­he­sive the per­for­mances be­come. Four times in the past eight years the game against the Wallabies has been first up in the se­ries.

They’ve waltzed over here bat­tled hard­ened and to­gether af­ter the Rugby Cham­pi­onship and very much in sync. This time, the boot may well be on the other foot.

Michael Cheika’s men will have had a two week break from play­ing, but they will come up against a Welsh side with a game and three weeks of train­ing be­hind them.

I think that could be vi­tal, espe­cially if the crowd get be­hind Wales and add to the bite and in­ten­sity of the oc­ca­sion. Given that the next time we will meet them will be for real at the 2019 World Cup in Ja­pan, wouldn’t it be great if we gave them to some­thing to worry about for the next 12 months?

To do that our at­tack will have to be far more pre­cise, the kick­ing game from half-back will need to be much bet­ter, and we’ll need to se­cure much quicker ball. There was no sur­prise the Scots were able to slow down a lot of our pos­ses­sion. With Michael Hooper and David Po­cock to face this week­end, it could be an even harder task to free up the ball.

But we all saw what the Welsh back line is ca­pa­ble of given a bit of space and time. Those tries from Ge­orge North and Jonathan Davies epit­o­mised what we can do. There was power from Ge­orge as he ploughed his way through three Scot­tish de­fend­ers and then pace from Jonathan as he said ‘Bye bye’ to Huw Jones with the per­fect fend and turn of ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Two world class at­tack­ers in one back divi­sion. It’s just mouth-wa­ter­ing! It also means we have to get the ball to them quicker and more of­ten.

The move that paved the way for Jonathan’s try was straight

“Cheika’s men will come up against a Welsh side with a game and three weeks of train­ing be­hind them”

off the train­ing ground and showed what Gareth An­scombe is all about. He put his cen­tre through a gap with some deft han­dling and his dis­tri­bu­tion through­out was top notch. He said ear­lier in the week that he wanted to lay down a marker for the No 10 jersey. In my eyes, he did just that.

Will he play this week against the Wallabies? It is a big call for War­ren Gat­land to make, but I think I’d give him an­other shot to try to build on this vic­tory. War­ren al­ways talks about mo­men­tum and I think keep­ing the same half­backs would be a sen­si­ble move.

You can then utilise Dan Big­gar and Rhys Patchell, when he is fit to re­turn, in the games against Tonga and South Africa. Per­haps Dan can be given his big shot against the Spring­boks.

There is no doubt An­scombe gives you a bet­ter at­tack­ing op­tion than Big­gar, but my old Ospreys team-mate is still the king in the air and has the best all-round kick­ing and de­fen­sive game of all the play­maker op­tions War­ren has at his dis­posal. He still has a huge part to play in the next 12 months even though he is play­ing out­side of Welsh re­gional rugby at Northamp­ton.

What the win over the Scots will give the play­ers more than any­thing is a ref­er­ence point as they seek to break that de­press­ing run against Aus­tralia. The video of the game, along­side the stats, will tell them ex­actly where they need to im­prove. They haven’t had that in the past.

Just look at the list of de­feats on the open­ing day of the au­tum; four against Aus­tralia, three against South Africa, two against New Zealand, and one against Ar­gentina. There was also a draw against the Wallabies.

War­ren has al­ways said that the longer the team spends to­gether, the bet­ter it be­comes. Is three weeks to­gether, with a game be­hind them, long enough to match the Aussies? I reckon it could be!

It looks as though Sam­son Lee won’t be fit enough to start, but To­mas Fran­cis will come back in to back up Dil­lon Lewis. I thought Dil­lon was su­perb against the Scots by the way. He more than proved his point on the tight head.

El­lis Jenk­ins should also be fit to re­turn to com­pete for a back-row place, although Justin Tipuric shone like a bea­con with his all-round mas­ter class at No 7. To show you how good he was, he even got more head­lines than the skip­per Alun Wyn!

The for­wards need to take the phys­i­cal supremacy they en­joyed against the Scots up an­other level this week­end to en­sure the Wallabies don’t get front foot ball.

Let’s face it, the last thing we want to see is Kurt­ley Beale run­ning all over the place yet again. Keep them tied in up front, and tied down be­hind, and I think we are good enough to beat them. Then we can start talk­ing about the first pos­si­ble clean­sweep in the au­tumn this cen­tury.

I know the Spring­boks will be smart­ing af­ter three suc­ces­sive de­feats to Wales, and will be hurt­ing like hell af­ter their one-point de­feat to Eng­land at Twick­en­ham, but they and Tonga are both em­i­nently beat­able by this Welsh squad.

But at the same time, let’s not get ahead of our­selves.

There is a lot of build on from the win over the Scots, but also a lot to be im­proved. We will be bet­ter on Satur­day. The only ques­tion is, how much? And will it be enough?

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Mas­ter­class: Justin Tipuric ‘shone like a bea­con’

Deft han­dling: Gareth An­scombe

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