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Wales v Australia Preview

Warren Gatland reckons he’s a happy man and to be fair, it doesn’t take much.

Shoes that don’t pinch, a tie he’s able to loosen away from the cameras, maybe a beer or two.

But what really makes him smile is winning and although there is still plenty of risk in Wales’ next Pool C match against Australia at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday, Gatland is sitting pretty on a pile of 10 points.

The permutations if Wales lose are complicated but Gatland is content to focus purely on winning against the Wallabies, a result which would clinch a quarter-final spot with one pool match remaining.

It’s as tight as those nasty pinching WRU-issue brogues, but DragonBet just make Wales favourites at a boosted 21/20, with the Aussies at evens.

With a points start, Australia get 1.5 points.

Gatland said: “We’re happy with our position going into this game. We have two wins and ten points. There’s a confidence among this group and we’ve had a good edge to training this week.

“Everyone wants to be involved and there were some disappointed players this week, which is exactly what we want with competition strong across the squad.

“Every game in the World Cup is tough, the stakes are high, and this will be no different. Australia have talented players and we know they will want to come out and put in a performance this weekend.

“Our accuracy was good against Fiji, but it was not at the level we would like against Portugal. We are looking to get better every week. Against Australia we know we have to take our chances and put them under as much pressure as possible.

“If we play the way we know we can and maintain that for 80 minutes, then we know we will be a very hard team to beat.”

Gatland has brought back all his big names to face the Wallabies and made 12 changes from the team that struggled at times to overcome Portugal in their last game.

The New Zealander has gone for the same side that beat Fiji, meaning hooker Dewi Lake is left out of the squad having led the side against Portugal, with Ryan Elias back in the middle of the front row.

Adam Beard is named in the second row and will win his 50th cap.

Eddie Jones has shaken up his Australia side, with Ben Donaldson moving from full-back to outside-half in place of Carter Gordon, who is named on the bench.

Forwards Taniela Tupou and Will Skelton remain on the sidelines with injuries.

But Wales prop Gareth Thomas hasn’t forgotten the last time he faced the Wallabies – Wales were leading 34-25 when he was replaced in the 67th minute and ended up losing 39-34.

The game was in the Autumn Series in 2022 and as well as scoring four tries, the 34 points scored by Wals were the most they had ever notched against the Wallabies. Yet despite leading by 21 points at one stage, they succumbed to a late rally.

Games between Wales and Australia always tend to be close run affairs.

Only once in the last 15 meetings between the two nations going back to the Bronze Final in the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 has there been a blow-out – the Wallabies cruising to a 32-8 win in Cardiff in 2016. 

The other 14 games have been won by nine points or less, with 10 of the games being decided by a single score. The Aussies have won 12 of the last 15 but Thomas is backing the harsh lessons learned in 2022 to help Wales in Lyon on Sunday.

“When we came here, we always wanted to win all the games in the group, and nothing has changed. We’ve got the same mindset, we want to go out there, perform and get another win,” said the Ospreys front row man.

“They’re always going to be dangerous. Last autumn things went well for us until the last 10 minutes and finishing off games has been a big focus of ours. 

“Hopefully, this weekend we will be able to do that. We take a lot of confidence from the Fiji and Portugal games, as well as what we’ve done all summer. We feel like we can only get better.

“Getting a third win and securing a quarter-final place would be an amazing feeling. We don’t want anything but that.”

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