End the curse. That must be Wales’s aim in Cardiff. If they are to realise Warren Gatland’s dream of winning the World Cup in two years — the hoodoo must cease now.
End the curse. That must be Wales’s aim today in Cardiff. If they are to realise Warren Gatland’s dream of winning the World Cup in Japan in two years — an aim he truly believes is achievable — the hoodoo must cease now.
It has been nine years since Wales last beat Australia, 2019 pool opponents again in Tokyo, almost a decade of near-misses and what-ifs.
More incredible still, it is 15 autumns since they won the first match of a November series — and that was against Romania.
Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde wants to lay down a marker against Australia
McBryde believes Wales will have a psychological advantage in the World Cup if they win
Alun Wyn Jones led the captain's run before Wales face the Wallabies on Saturday afternoon
Warren Gatland's side have not beaten Australia for nine years — a 21-18 win back in 2008
The build-up to Saturday's Test has lacked fanfare. It is an odd autumn with teams, Wales in particular, laying emphasis on blooding new talent and combinations.
Wales coach Gatland even admitted on Thursday that he knows some of his rookies are not yet ready, but the time is right for him to attach the eye-piece and start polishing some rough diamonds.
Despite all this, he is acutely aware of the significance of victory on Saturday — as are those who starred in the last one over Australia.
‘It is amazing that we have not won since 2008,’ said Martyn Williams, the flanker that day who went on to win 100 caps. ‘It is incredible looking at the amount of talent we have had. We need to get the monkey off our back before the World Cup. We need to beat them. It’s a really important game.’
But why is it so tough for Wales in the opening Test of the season?
The Welsh stars were put through their paces in their final training session before the game
Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies throws a pass during a warm up for the back-line
‘The step up is always so difficult,’ Williams added. ‘You are almost playing a club team in the first match, as they have been together for three or four months.
‘We tried so many different things to overcome the first game, like training harder during the week. But the pace of it caught us out.’
Scrummaging against England at Clifton College on Monday was certainly a different approach. Tom Shanklin, the outside centre in 2008 who won 70 Wales caps, said: ‘I think there is a bit of a mental block, but some of it is game management. Ultimately you are playing against class, quality teams who want to attack you, create space, score tries.
‘In 2008 we thought we had broken a mental block and would go on to win some more against Southern Hemisphere sides, but it never really occurred.’
Fly-half Dan Biggar orchestrates the attack as he ships the ball on to flanker Aaron Shingler
Alun Wyn Jones, captain in the absence of Sam Warburton, is the only current player who played in that win. He has insisted Australia are not Wales’ bogey team but will be as sick as anyone with the recent run.
Perhaps Australia’s 40 days of globe-trotting will help Wales today. The Wallabies have flown 33,000 miles to Bloemfontein, Mendoza, Brisbane and Tokyo, before arriving in Europe on Monday.
‘Australia have had a hell of a tough schedule,’ said Williams. ‘I am hoping there is a little bit of fatigue in their legs.’
But Adam Jones, another star of 2008, makes a pertinent point. ‘They have just beaten the All Blacks so they will be coming up here on top of the world I imagine,’ he said. Shanklin agrees, saying: ‘Australia are going to be very good. They are going to attack. They are favourites and Wales are at a development stage, where they are trying to find a style that suits them. It is time for them to change.’
Time for Welsh luck to change too, if the Australian curse is to end.
Gloucester back Owen Williams is set for his first home start in the autumn series opener
Forwards Jones and Ken Owens ship the ball on as they hone their passing skills in Cardiff
Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler, donning a Wales-crested hat, spins a pass out to a team-mate
Gareth Davies will deputise at No 9 in place of the injured Rhys Webb when the Wallabies visit
Leigh Halfpenny stretches with kicking coach and all-time top points scorer Neil Jenkins (R)
Gatland will hope his dual playmaker selection of Biggar and Williams pays off on Saturday
Wales' pack will be crucial in the clash with Australia, believes scrum coach McBryde
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