This tie pits two teams desperate for redemption against each other. Australia are still dealing with the fall-out from the Bledisloe Cup clown fiasco, and Wales will want to put the memory of their summer tour to New Zealand into the furthest reaches of their minds after being beaten in every game, including a disastrous match against the Chiefs. The Wallabies have gone big for this year’s Northern Hemisphere tour, and are playing for a grand slam, an ambitious undertaking and something they have not achieved in over 30 years (1984, in case anyone was wondering).
Unfortunately for Wales, their line-up is rife with absentees. Captain Sam Warburton is out with injury, as is arguably their best player, number eight Taulupe Faletau. Alun Wyn Jones has been released due to the sad passing of his father in the past few days, which has opened up another gap in the Welsh pack. Such is their injury list, it is still unclear who will captain Wales this weekend, although Gethin Jenkins or Dan Lydiate look to be the leading contenders. For the Wallabies, Will Genia has been denied release from his club Stade Francais and so will not be taking part in Saturday’s match. It is also rumoured that the Australian team will experiment by having Israel Folau move from full back to outside centre.
In terms of past matches between these two teams, Wales have won just twice against the Wallabies since 1987, their last victory coming in 2008. The stats are, however, somewhat misleading; these matches have always been close, with the score difference often being less than a converted try. With the Australian team in a considerably weaker position than they were at this point last year, Wales have a real opportunity to land a famous victory. What they absolutely need to do is utilise their famous defence to its maximum potential. Australia have been good at applying pressure on their opponents, but have lacked a real cutting edge. The second test against England in the summer really highlighted this problem, with the Wallabies only scoring seven points despite having over 70% of the possession and territory. Against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup debacle they had similar stats, with relatively little to show for their efforts. If Wales can defend consistently well, keep the penalty count low, and hit the Australians on the counter they will have an excellent chance of killing the visitors’ grand slam hopes before they have even started.