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Australia vs Wales Rugby World Cup Preview

Australia fans have arrived at the Rugby World Cup 2019
Australia fans have arrived at the Rugby World Cup 2019
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 30 Sep 2019, 14:27 IST
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For the Wallabies and Wales, Pool D is now wide open following Fiji's shock defeat to Uruguay on Tuesday. This blockbuster clash is likely to decide who will top the group, and most likely avoid England in the quarter-finals. 

Australia are aiming to become World Champions for a third time having lifted the World Cup in 1991 and 1999. Despite their average form this year, the Wallabies cannot be underestimated. Coach Michael Cheika has made several changes to his side for this crucial tie. Dane Haylett-Petty will replace Kurtley Beale at fullback and Will Genia has taken Nic White’s starting position at scrumhalf. Veteran flyhalf Bernard Foley comes into the team replacing Christan Lealiifano in the no.10 jersey.

Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika
Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

The Aussies will be without winger Reece Hodge who has been banned for three games following his high tackle on Peceli Yato in their win over Fiji. Adam Ashley-Cooper will appear out wide in his place. 

The Welsh have arrived in Japan full of belief having been ranked as the best team on the planet this year. For the rugby-loving nation of Wales, now is the time to finally deliver the Webb Ellis Cup. The Welsh have been close before, most notably in 2011 when they suffered a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to France. Warren Gatland has opted for the same starting XV that beat Georgia 43-14 on Monday. One change on the bench sees midfield-back Owen Watkin replace fullback Leigh Halfpenny. The Six Nations Grand Slam winners will stick to their game plan and target the Wallabies with high balls from the boot of Gareth Davies. 

A group of Wales fans in Tokyo
A group of Wales fans in Tokyo

To stand the best chance, Australia must take those catches, exploit set-pieces, and move the Welsh around to create gaps.The Wallabies backline must also gel early in this match to avoid a slow start.

The fact Michael Cheika has reshuffled his back three is a compliment to Wales' flyhalf Dan Biggar who is likely to be the most important player in the game due to his tremendous kicking skills. Another key player for the Welsh is scrumhalf Gareth Davies who was brilliant against Georgia and was taken off early to keep him fresh for this game. Davies has 12 tries in 45 Tests for Wales which is a remarkable return for a player in his position.

Gareth Davies for Wales v Georgia - Rugby World Cup 2019: Group D
Gareth Davies for Wales v Georgia - Rugby World Cup 2019: Group D

The Wallabies will rely heavily on the experience of Adam Ashley-Cooper, called in to replace the suspended Reece Hodge. Ashley-Cooper will make his 44th Test start on the wing for Aussies. The 35-year-old Waratahs outside centre has the best record against Wales of any player in Test history, having won 13 from 13 encounters. His know-how will be crucial in the cauldron of the Ajinomoto Stadium.

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The atmosphere at the match will be incredible with thousands of Welsh and Wallabies fans set to descend on the Japanese capital. The match is also likely to be a nerve-shredder with 12 of the last 13 fixtures between the teams decided by single-figure margins. Australia had won 13 consecutive matches against Wales until the last meeting in November 2018 when Warren Gatland's men ended the losing streak with a 9-6 victory in Cardiff.

Wales are slight favourites to win but it is very difficult to call. In a World Cup game of such significance, anything could happen. The Welsh defence and kicking vs the Wallabies power and speed. Get ready, the Rugby World Cup is about to explode into life.

Published 30 Sep 2019, 14:27 IST
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