The Wallabies are in Cardiff to renew hostilities with Wales in the wee small hours of Sunday morning.
A comfortable win in Japan got the Aussies’ spring tour off to a positive start, but they’ll need to be wary of a hungry Welsh team this week. It will be Wales’ first Test match since June when they squeaked past Samoa, albeit without their Lions stars.
For the Wallabies, some of the usual suspects are back. Genia and Foley resume their partnership, pushing the impressive Reece Hodge to the wing. Karmichael Hunt has recovered from a neck complaint, but only makes the bench. The forward pack is unchanged from Yokohama.
The home side are forced into a few changes. Flanker Justin Tipuric and scrum-half Rhys Webb have failed to recover from their injuries. Josh Navidi and Gareth Davies are their respective replacements. They’re also missing the big names of George North and Sam Warburton.
The interesting selection is Owen Williams at inside centre for his first start. He’ll function as a second playmaker alongside Dan Biggar. Meanwhile, the Welsh bench is light on experience, featuring three uncapped players.
1. Scott Sio 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 3. Sekope Kepu 4. Rob Simmons 5. Adam Coleman 6. Ned Hanigan 7. Michael Hooper 8. Sean McMahon 9. Will Genia 10. Bernard Foley 11. Reece Hodge 12. Samu Kerevi 13. Tevita Kuridrani 14. Marika Koroibete 15. Kurtley Beale
Subs: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight
1. Rob Evans 2. Ken Owens 3. Tomas Francis 4. Jake Ball 5. Alun Wyn Jones 6. Aaron Shingler 7. Josh Navidi 8. Toby Faletau 9. Gareth Davies 10. Dan Biggar 11. Steff Evans 12. Owen Williams 13. Jonathan Davies 14. Liam Williams 15. Leigh Halfpenny
Subs: Kristian Dacey, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Sam Cross, Aled Davies, Owen Watkin, Hallam Amos
The Wallabies have won 12 on the trot against Wales, during an era of relative strength for the Welsh. Australia are definitely their bogey team (the All Blacks’ 28-game streak against Wales doesn’t count ‒ they’re just a very good team).
Wales finished a disappointing fifth in this year’s Six Nations, but that doesn’t tell the full story. They beat Ireland and suffered narrow losses to both England and France. Despite the personnel changes, Wales still boast class in the form of Alun Wyn Jones, Toby Faletau, Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny.
It should be an intriguing battle. Recent encounters with the Welsh have centred around nullifying the hulking threats of North, Davies and Jamie Roberts. The selection of a playmaker at 12 will be a useful test for the defensive communication of Kerevi and Kuridrani.
The set piece will be a focal point for the home side and the Wallabies’ scrum must hold its own to get the job done. Halfpenny’s boot is always a weapon if our front row starts to creak. But I think Australia will edge this one.
Wallabies by 6.