Wales may have dropped the talisman of the Warrenball era, Jamie Roberts, from their squad for the autumn internationals as they ponder playing two fly-halves, but Saturday’s opponents, Australia, are expecting their usual physical workout in Cardiff.
When Wales hosted Australia nine years ago, Roberts played on for 15 minutes after suffering a fractured skull in a collision with his midfield opposite number Stirling Mortlock. It was the end of Warren Gatland’s first year as the coach and his team became renowned for looking to dominate the opposition physically.
The game has moved on and with teams now rewarded for keeping possession, renewed emphasis has been put on attack. Wales announce their team on Thursday and have been considering playing Owen Williams, the Gloucester fly-half, at inside-centre.
“We will look to target their 10-12 channel but that is usual,” said the Australia centre, Tevita Kuridrani, one of his side’s try scorers in the 32-8 victory in Cardiff a year ago. “We want to get the ball out wide and be a threat all over. Wales will not have Jamie Roberts but we are not expecting them to be different.
“They will look to make their mark physically and mash it up in the frontline. It is what you expect when you tour the northern hemisphere where teams are big and physical and look to dominate you. I am looking forward to playing opposite Jonathan Davies for the first time, a world-class centre who has it all; I really rate him.”
Australia have won their past 12 internationals against Wales since losing in 2008 but they arrived in Wales on Monday battle-hardened, if weary after a 16-hour journey from Japan, and buoyed by victory over New Zealand last month.
“That win was a step forward for us,” said the second-row Adam Coleman. “We are a young team and have been trying different combinations, but while it was a good feeling to beat them, it was bittersweet because they kept the Bledisloe Cup.
“What we have to do is carry that performance on and become more consistent. We know we still have a long way to go and we need to keep moving up the rankings. Wales are a class outfit with threats from 1 to 15 and while they can run from anywhere, they will look to take us on up front. We will be up for it.”
The two meet in the 2019 World Cup in Japan. It will be the fourth time they have been pooled together with Wales yet to win. Victory for Australia on Saturday would not only extend the Wallabies’ winning run in the fixture to 13 but give them a psychological advantage before the September 2019 meeting in Tokyo.
“We just look at it as another week,” Kuridrani said. “It is always tough when we play Wales and we know we are going to have to turn up on Saturday. We have done a lot of travelling in the last few months but everyone is fresh and raring to go.”