Rea­sons to be cheer­ful on chances of Welsh win

Western Mail - - SPORT - GWYN JONES Gwyn Jones will be part of the Clwb Rygbi pre­sen­ta­tion team, which will have cov­er­age of Wales v Aus­tralia from 4.50pm on Satur­day, on S4C. Clwb Rygbi Rhyn­g­wladol will have cov­er­age of each of Wales’ matches dur­ing the 2018 au­tumn in­ter­na­tional

OP­TI­MISM does not come nat­u­rally to me, so some­thing must have changed for me to be­lieve that Wales has their best chance in a decade of beat­ing Aus­tralia.

My rea­son­ing for this is sev­eral fold. Firstly, Wales are on a roll. They have a run of vic­to­ries be­hind them, in­spir­ing con­fi­dence and be­lief.

Se­condly, the game is in Cardiff, giv­ing the home side an emo­tional edge and most of the ref­eree’s 50-50 calls.

And fi­nally, Aus­tralia are not the team they were.

Be­fore ev­ery­one starts dis­agree­ing and point­ing out how com­pet­i­tive the Wal­la­bies were against New Zealand in Ja­pan just a few weeks ago, I am look­ing more at their body of work over the last three months.

They have been poor. Los­ing matches eas­ily, hav­ing to re-struc­ture their back­line and hav­ing to fight fires off the field.

Aus­tralia still have the same tal­ented play­ers that have beaten Wales over the years but I think they have lost the co­he­sion and more im­por­tantly, the sum­mer de­feats mean that they have lost that psy­cho­log­i­cal edge that made them tough to beat.

War­ren Gat­land has made some in­ter­est­ing se­lec­tions. The most un­ex­pected for me was that Liam Wil­liams didn’t make the start­ing XV. For me, he is a nailed-on starter and I would po­si­tion the rest of the back three around him. He is too good a rugby player not to be on the pitch.

Josh Adams im­pressed with a mem­o­rable try on the sum­mer tour. He is a fine winger and seems to score lots of tries. You can’t ask for much more.

If Aus­tralia get some pos­ses­sion, they will test his de­ci­sion-mak­ing in de­fence with their high-tempo pass­ing style.

It was no sur­prise that Gareth Anscombe kept Dan Big­gar on the bench. He is a gen­uine run­ning threat and the abil­ity of a fly-half to en­gage de­fend­ers is vi­tal for op­por­tu­ni­ties to be cre­ated in wider chan­nels.

Where Anscombe was de­fi­cient last Satur­day was in his kick­ing game. Too many times he chose to kick when he shouldn’t have and com­pounded mat­ters with poor ex­e­cu­tion.

In­deed, that was one of the more per­plex­ing is­sues about the Scot­land game. Wales dom­i­nated up front, they won the col­li­sions com­fort­ably, yet they had such lit­tle pos­ses­sion.

How does that hap­pen? It hap­pened mainly be­cause Wales were lack­ing the pa­tience and con­fi­dence to keep the ball any­where other than in the op­po­si­tion 22.

Wales will have to be more will­ing to hold onto pos­ses­sion against Aus­tralia or they will get pun­ished.

Dan Lydiate had one of his bet­ter games for a cou­ple of years. He made a pow­er­ful run, showed good hands and won a jackal penalty. In­deed, in 2016 he played against the Wal­la­bies when Wales were swept aside 32-8 in a match that was sim­ply too quick for him.

The con­stantly-mov­ing tar­gets and speed at which the ball was moved from the tackle and how quickly the ball seemed to be fly­ing around, left Wales chas­ing shad­ows. The Welsh back-row was in­ef­fec­tual that day.

It was the same one that starts on Satur­day.

Many of the Aus­tralia team that played that day are also play­ing again this week­end and this time, Lydiate and his two col­leagues will have to show he can make an im­pres­sion in this type of game.

In the past, Wales have looked to slow down Aus­tralia but they have never been able to sub­due them enough to win the match.

Of course, Wales must make things dif­fi­cult for the Wal­la­bies in pos­ses­sion, but they al­most get into a mind­set of be­ing a de­fen­sive side when they are try­ing to im­pede their op­po­nents.

I think that Wales should trust them­selves that they can cre­ate and score tries.

I was hop­ing to see Dil­lon Lewis start again, but he makes way for To­mos Fran­cis. Lewis of­fers much more around the park and we would have learned much more about his de­vel­op­ment as a scrum­mager, had he faced Scott Sio from the be­gin­ning.

If there are lot of scrums, Fran­cis is your man. If not, Wales are los­ing a valu­able con­trib­u­tor in gen­eral play.

So, how will Wales win this match? By go­ing up a level. They will use strike moves from first phase to cause prob­lems. I also think that Aus­tralia will strug­gle with the rush de­fence and Wales will force open some su­per­fi­cial cracks in this stut­ter­ing Aussie out­fit.

Leigh Halfpenny will kick every­thing, and when it comes to the fi­nal cru­cial minute when Wales usu­ally throw away a po­ten­tial vic­tory, this time they will pre­vail. This time, Wales are fit­ter, have a strong bench, and this time they be­lieve they can win.

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HUW EVANS AGENCY

> Josh Adams pressed his claims with Wales in the sum­mer, but Aus­tralia will test his de­fence

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