Wales v Australia
Wales look to halt dreadful run against Wallabies
November 29, 2013
It was heartbreak for Wales when the two sides last met in December 2012 © PA Photos
Before the curtain comes down on another November packed full of internationals, there is time for one more Test and for the good of northern hemisphere rugby, you feel Wales have to defeat the resurgent Wallabies.
It has been a sadly predictable tale for the northern hemisphere sides in the November series. England have been the only team to register a victory over one of the southern hemisphere big three - against Australia on November 2 - though Ireland came agonisingly close last weekend against the All Blacks.
For Wales, their record against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand makes dismal reading. Since 2008, they have won just one match out of 23 - a triumph which dates back five years when they defeated Australia by three points at their Cardiff base.
Australia are no strangers to this crop of Welsh players. The Wallabies played Warren Gatland's men four times in 2012, with Robbie Deans' team winning all four, and then met some familiar faces in the British & Irish Lions series last summer.
While Gatland is as much a part of the Welsh furniture as an overcrowded Cardiff train station on matchday, Ewen McKenzie is slowly laying his blueprint over the Wallabies. His bold call to suspend six players last week for off-field misdemeanours did not halt their charge to three wins in as many matches as they saw off Scotland in Murrayfield. His team will now be under no illusions to the standards expected at Test level.
For McKenzie, a triumph over Wales, coupled with their earlier win over Ireland, would show real progress for this batch of Wallabies.
Australia as a team are playing well at the moment. Quade Cooper, who wins his 50th cap on Saturday, is relishing his new found responsibility as the Wallabies' vice captain while Nick Cummins, prior to his enforced break against Scotland, has been in the right place at the right time for his tries.
For Wales, Toby Faletau is playing superbly at No.8 with Scott Williams proving to be more than a humble deputy for the injured Jamie Roberts. Owen Williams also did well last Friday against Tonga though Australia will pose a harder threat.
Out of form
Christian Leali'ifano had a horror show with the boot against Scotland and will look to bounce back in Cardiff. James Horwill started off the series in poor form, losing the captaincy in the process, and he will want to put in a solid performance on Saturday to carry him through to the start of Super Rugby and Australia's June Test series against France.
Wales were distinctly average against Tonga last Friday and Gatland will hope for more against Australia. Their set piece lacked accuracy and despite finding themselves in solid attacking positions, they squandered overlaps and chances. George North is also failing to hit the heights of his Lions form so will hope to re-find his world class swagger against Australia.
Key area to watch
The battle of the fullbacks should be fascinating. It is Leigh Halfpenny, the man who seems to be up for every award going, against Israel Folau, one of the few players currently running out in the game who can make a chance out of nothing. Both are different types of fullbacks but the clash of styles should morph into an eye-catching match-up.
Wales to halt run of defeats?
A question to ponder...
Australia's problems with the scrum have been well documented but without Adam Jones, will Wales have the same joy as the Lions did last summer? The area has been one of the key areas of improvement for McKenzie and a solid performance against the Welsh could help prove a few doubters wrong.
There is little between the two packs on Saturday. Wales have a three kilogramme advantage but Australia have the heaviest forward in the guise of Sekope Kepu who tips the scales at 125kg.
Both teams have won three of the last five matches. Australia, however, have enjoyed more joy on the try-scoring stakes having crossed for 27 in the last 10 matches compared to Wales' 17.
The largest margin of victory in this fixture came in 1991. Australia defeated the visitors 63-6 in Brisbane.
Australia need one more successful penalty to reach a total of 1100 scored in Test history
Wales will end their losing run against Australia and will prevail by three to five points.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.