RWC: Match preview: Wales – Australia

Eden Park, Auckland, Friday 21st Oct 8:30pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 30, Australia 19, Wales 10, Drawn 1
Last meeting: Australia 25 beat Wales 26 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 2010
Last meeting at a World Cup: Australia 32 beat Wales 20 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 2007

Team news: Robbie Deans has included the influential Kurtley Beale for this match, but for many the star fullback comes in a week too late. The inclusion of Beale means Ashley-Cooper slides back to outside centre with Fainga’a reverting back to the bench. In the forwards Deans has made a host of changes with only Horwill and Pocock keeping their places in the starting side. Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Salesi Ma’afu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and James Slipper come in to start. While Lock Nathan Sharpe replaces Dan Vickerman and will play his 100th test match. Warren Gatland has been forced into making changes with captain Sam Warburton suspended for the much publicised tip tackle and Adam Jones suffering a calf injury in the semi-final. Ryan Jones and Paul James replace the experienced players in the side. The only other change to the side is lock Alun Wyn Jones move to the bench with Bradley Davis starting the match.

Form: Australia were lucky to make the semi-finals after a close match against South Africa, and its fair to say that the Wallabies have never got out of first gear all tournament. It showed against New Zealand last Sunday as they were smashed off the paddock by a team that did not let them into the match from the kickoff. Wales on the other-hand have been exceptional, and were 10 inches away from a place in the final. Had Leigh Halfpenny’s long range penalty attempt had gone over the posts, the Welsh would have accomplished an amazing victory with only 14 men on the field.

Prediction: This match has been described by some as nothing more than a money spinner, and its hard to argue against that, but when you pull on your countries jersey you are expected to give your all and do your nation proud. So it is fair to say these two teams will play to win, even though they will be disappointed at not playing in the main game on Sunday. Australia are the favourites with the bookmakers and have an excellent record against the Welsh winning five of the last six, so it would be easy to back the boys in green and gold here. But with New Zealand aside, Wales have been the form team of the tournament and definitely have the ability to beat the Wallabies. They will have to play well and stick to the same game plan that got them this far in the tournament, but we are backing the proud Welsh to head home with their heads held high.
Wales by 2

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Toby Faletau, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Paul James, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Gethin Jenkins (capt).
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Scott Williams.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill (capt), 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Anthony Fainga’a, 22 Robert Horne.

By Alex Barlow-Smith