Welsh look good, Wallabies don’t: Tune
The last Welshman to taste series success in Australia, wing great Ieuen Evans, believes Wales can end their dreadful Down Under hoodoo but must win Saturday night’s series-opening Test against a battered and weakened Wallabies.
Evans, who scored the dramatic series-clinching try for the British Lions in 1989, believes the reigning Six Nations champions have sent their strongest squad since their 1970s glory days and are primed for a first win in 42 years.
And highlighting Wales’ huge opportunity, even several of Evans’ old Australian adversaries fear a drought-breaking triumph at Suncorp Stadium.
Two of them – Andrew Slack and Ben Tune – rated the Welsh definite favourites in the first Test, as the Wallabies have a massive task to rebound physically and mentally from Tuesday night’s 9-6 loss to Scotland.
“The fact that they’ve won the Six Nations shows they’re playing some good footy, and we’re not,” Tune bluntly said.
Describing Australia’s side – lacking the creativity of injured backline trio Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor – as merely solid, former Test skipper Slack felt the tourists possessed more class.
“If we get through this series 2-1 we should be air-punching I think,” he told a Reds business breakfast on Friday. “I think it will be very difficult.”
Evans, capped 79 times for Wales and the Lions, is as excited as much by the contest between the two young outfits – highlighted by three positional duels – as the Welsh chances of victory.
He pointed to the head-to-head battles between captains Sam Warburton and David Pocock at the breakdown, halfbacks Mike Phillips and Will Genia and a bruising wing tussle involving George North and Digby Ioane as “mouth watering”.
But he felt the Red Dragon needed to fire at the Wallabies’ Suncorp Stadium fortress to enjoy the triumph they truly believe they can achieve.
“We have to win the first Test,” he said. If you lose the first Test it’s very hard coming back.
“The really intriguing thing this weekend is there’s so many great match-ups.”
The imposing North, just 20 and already a world-class finisher, is anticipating his clash with Ioane just as much, describing him as a “monster”.
The Welsh are missing star centre Jamie Roberts but he’s been replaced with in-form Scott Williams, giving the tourists a Llanelli Scarlets 10-12-13 combination with Rhys Priestland and Jonathan Davies.
They will mark up against Australia’s 19th different centre pairing under Robbie Deans in Pat McCabe and Rob Horne, while the out-of-sorts Berrick Barnes has been retained at five-eighth.
In an ominous sign, Wales’ last two defeats of the Wallabies, in Cardiff in 2005 and 2008, came when they were Six Nations champions.
Slack also likened the current Welsh outfit, which made last year’s World Cup semi-finals, to the 1978 side he debuted against, containing the likes of Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams.
Australia won 19-17 with a late Paul McLean field goal at the SCG that Slack recalled “missed by a mile”.
“We might need a bit of that luck tomorrow night,” he said.© AAP 2013
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