- Date: Sunday September 24, 20:00 BST
- Location: OL Stadium, Lyon
- Teams: Wales vs Australia
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Two proud rugby nations clash in crucial Pool C match
Wales have had a mixed build up to the tournament with a win and a defeat in two games against England and a defeat to South Africa. Warren Gatland’s side finished fifth in this year’s Six Nations, with only one win and are currently ranked 10th in the world. They boast a mix of seasoned veterans and rising stars, with Dan Biggar’s playmaking expertise and Liam Williams’ prowess in high-pressure situations standing out as key assets.
Several key players in the Welsh squad have amassed more than 100 caps, underscoring their extensive international experience. Among them are George North and Taulupe Faletau, whose long-standing contributions to the team are noteworthy.
In the playmaking department, Biggar stands out as a highly skilled fly-half renowned for his exceptional game control. Meanwhile, the versatile Williams is a dependable presence under high balls and possesses a clinical and imaginative approach to attack.
Unfortunately, the team has suffered a setback with the injury of veteran front-row player Ken Owens. Consequently, Wales will see a change in leadership as Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake take on co-captaincy responsibilities, following the retirement of the legendary Alun Wyn Jones from international play.
In terms of emerging talent, Christ Tshiunza, a promising 21-year-old forward from Exeter, is poised to make an impact. He brings versatility to the pack, capable of performing in the back row or as a lock.
They won their opening Pool C match against an improving Fiji side 32-26. Then a much changed side produced a scrappy performance to defeat Portugal 28-8.
Wales will start against Australia with the same XV that won their first match against Fiji.
Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; G Thomas, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Wainwright, Morgan (capt), Faletau.
Replacements: Dee, Domachowski, H Thomas, D Jenkins, Basham, T Williams, Anscombe, Dyer.
Australia are going through a difficult spell at the moment. They finished bottom of the Rugby Championship with three defeats and lost warm up games to both New Zealand and France. Eddie Jones’ side are currently ranked 9th in the world.
Jones has taken a bold approach by assembling a youthful squad and cultivating a siege mentality within the team. This tactic involves convincing the players that they are being underestimated, particularly by the Australian media, which can serve as a powerful motivational tool.
Handing the captaincy to Will Skelton, a La Rochelle lock who initially declined the role but was persuaded by Jones, carries its own set of risks. Leadership is a pivotal element in any team’s success, and it remains to be seen how Skelton will adapt to this newfound responsibility. While his experience as a multiple Champions Cup winner could prove beneficial in guiding the team, the captaincy also brings added pressure.
Jones is a renowned coach,, notably orchestrating Japan’s historic victory against South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. His wealth of experience and tactical expertise gives him a chance to defy the critics and achieve something extraordinary with this young squad.
The Wallabies opened their World Cup with a 35-15 victory over Georgia, their first victory since Jones returned to the helm. However, their second Pool C match saw a dissappointing performance when they were sensationally beaten 22-15 by Fiji, a result which blows the pool wide open. It puts the Australians in grave danger of not making it out of the pool stage, making their clash with Wales hugely significant.
Jones has chosen Ben Donaldson to start at fly-half against Wales.
Donaldson started the opening two World Cup games at full-back but moves to number 10 after Carter Gordon was taken off in the 22-15 defeat by Fiji.
Gordon is named as a replacement while Andrew Kellaway comes in at full-back.
Scrum-half Tate McDermott returns, but hooker David Porecki is retained as captain.
Flanker Rob Leota starts instead of Fraser McReight and Tom Hooper switches to open-side.
Australia: Kellaway; Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Donaldson, McDermott; Bell, Porecki (capt), Slipper, Frost, Arnold, Leota, T Hooper, Valetini.
Replacements: Faessler, Schoupp, Fa’amausili, Philip, McReight, White, Gordon, Vunivalu.
Wales vs Australia: Overall record
Overall, Wales and Australia have played each other on 45 occasions since their first meeting in 1908. Australia have won 31 matches, whilst Wales have won 13 matches. There has also been one draw between the two countries.
Rugby World Cup meetings
The two nations have met several times in World Cups. They have contested pool matches (1991, 2007, 2015 and 2019), a quarter-final (1999) and third-place play-offs (1987 and 2011).
1987 – Third-place play-off Australia 21-22 Wales (Rotorua)
1991 – Pool C match Wales 3-38 Australia (Cardiff Arms Park)
1999 – Quarter-final Wales 9-24 Australia (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
2007 – Pool B match Wales 20-32 Australia (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
2011 – Third-place play-off Wales 18-21 Australia (Eden Park, Auckland)
2015 – Pool A match Australia 15-6 Wales (Twickenham, London)
2019 – Pool D match Australia 25-29 Wales (Tokyo Stadium)
Both sides have had a tough time of late and would have hoped for a more encouraging year leading into the tournament. Wales’ results have been worrying since Gatland arrived for a second spell as head coach in December. They came fifth in the Six Nations, managing a solitary win against Italy in Rome, and their warm-up itinerary produced a home victory against England before a narrow defeat by them at Twickenham. A humbling 52-16 loss to South Africa in Cardiff did nothing for collective confidence but they are hardly alone in that against the in-form Springboks. However, the squad contains some inspirational and experienced performers and, in Gatland, Wales have a coach who has specialised in getting his teams to perform on the big occasion.
Australia, meanwhile, have struggled since Jones, the man who took them to the 2003 final returned. Long-serving players such as Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper were left at home and Jones has made noises about building for 2027.
There appears to be very little to choose between the two sides. In recent days, however, Wales’ odds have shortened and they are now slight favourites. They will do enough to gain a narrow victory.
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