International Rugby: Wales vs Australia Preview

Wales will look to kick off their Autumn International Series with the massive scalp of Australia at the Principality Stadium on Saturday the 11th of November. 

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Wales v Australia | 11 November 19h15 | Principality Stadium

To Wins (80 mins)
Wales 14/10 | Draw 18/1 | Australia 6/10
Wales (+3.5) 9/10 | Australia (-3.5) 9/10

Within the legion of mouth-watering international fixtures this weekend, the Principality will play host to arguably the most enthralling of all. After a rather unspectacular 2017, Warren Gatland's Welshmen will look to kick off their 2017/18 season with the massive scalp of the Wallabies. Opposing him, Michael Cheika, whose Australian side have had a relatively successful year, will want to end it off on a high; beginning with a solid showing in Cardiff.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to have come out of the Welsh camp of late has been Gatland's selection policy. His decision not to select either Jamie Roberts or Scott Williams points to a tactical shift, which indeed seems to have spelt an end to the infamous "Warrenball". The Kiwi coach has instead opted to include the likes of Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, and Owen Williams as his outside-half options, suggesting that he should include a playmaker at inside-centre, as he did with the Lions earlier this year when Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton both started the match.

The switch in mindset is an interesting one for the ever-stubborn Gatland, who seems set to spring a few surprises on his touring opposition this Autumn. Whether the move pays off, and indeed who he selects remains to be seen, but all indications are that Wales are looking to take their game to the next level this season. Saturday's Test at the Principality offers Gatland his first shot at testing the waters with his newfound philosophy so to speak, and the way his forwards allow the backs time and space will be vital.

Injuries to the likes of Sam Warburton, as well as the expected unavailability of Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb may hamper the Welshmen this weekend, as they look to end their 12-match losing streak to the Wallabies. The way in which Gatland's fringe players step up may make all the difference.

Coming off an impressive 63-30 demolition of Japan (which, of course, followed on from that 23-18 win over New Zealand in Bledisloe-3), Cheika's Wallabies will be riding a wave of confidence into Cardiff this Saturday. After a shaky start to their season, which included a home loss to Scotland, Australia really do seem to have hit their straps and will expect their upward trajectory to continue over the coming weeks.

Despite deciding to rest Israel Folau, Australia will stick to their guns and back themselves to record a fourth-straight Test match win. With no rain expected on Saturday, the Wallabies will need their centre-pairing to keep the Welsh backline under pressure. Wales are no longer one-trick ponies, and may have a few ideas up their sleeve to keep the Aussies guessing this week. That said, the Southern Hemisphere side are looking too good at present, and this fixture may have come a tad too early for this Wales team.

Verdict: Australia (-3.5) 9/10
It will be close, but Cheika and his men should get the win. A lot depends on the tactics the Welsh use, and how quickly they adjust to Gatland's expectedly new philosophy, but they may come unstuck no matter the case. Kiwi referee Glen Jackson won't help their cause either.

The teams

15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Substitutes: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Hallam Amos

15 Kurtley Beale; 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge; 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia; 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan; 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons; 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight

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