Wales look to turn up the heat on Deans
June 8, 2012
Australia must deal with added pressure after a shock loss to Scotland © PA Photos
Australia must deal with unwanted early pressure for the second time in as many years when Wales roll into Brisbane on Saturday, with the Wallabies' rain-lashed midweek loss to Scotland ensuring that the knives are out for Robbie Deans.
Last season a shadow Australia side lost to a rampant Samoa in their first Test of the campaign before recovering to win the Tri-Nations. This year they will be tested earlier, with Wales carrying Grand Slam form into a series they have dubbed 'must-win'.
The Tests are not without pressure for the visitors, who have faltered in recent years when trying to kick on from a Six Nations clean-sweep. The fact that Scotland - wooden spoon 'winners' - have kicked off the summer with a prized overseas scalp will add to their list of worries. With coach Warren Gatland out of action due to a heel injury this will be something of a step into the unknown - but one that could spell a new era for Welsh rugby, and disaster for the current Wallabies boss.
Australia - Player to Watch: The pressure is on Berrick Barnes to get the backline firing after they drew a blank against Scotland midweek. With Quade Cooper regaining his fitness, Barnes will have to impress against Wales.
Australia - Team News: Adam Ashley-Cooper starts at fullback for Australia with Cooper Vuna handed a debut on the wing alongside Digby Ioane. Pat McCabe and Rob Horne are in the centres with Berrick Barnes and Will Genia at half-back. Benn Robinson gets the nod at loose-head with Tatafu Polata-Nau and Sekope Kepu alongside him. Rob Simmons is in the second-row with Nathan Sharpe alongside him. The back-row is formed by Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock and Wycliff Palu.
Wales - Player to Watch: After some well-publicised fitness troubles, Wales skipper Sam Warburton will suit up in Brisbane. The Cardiff Blues flanker hasn't played for 11 weeks - since collecting the Six Nations trophy - and will go straight in at the deep end against David Pocock, one of the best in the business.
Wales - Team News: Leigh Halfpenny starts at fullback with Alex Cuthbert and George North on the wings. Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams are in the centres with Rhys Priestland and Mike Phillips at half-back. Gethin Jenkins, Ken Owens and Adam Jones form the front-row with Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris partnered in the second-row. Dan Lydiate, skipper Warburton and Toby Faletau are in the back-row.
Key Battle: Warburton v Pocock is now one of world rugby's heavyweight encounters. The breakdown will be a vital component of the game, particularly as both teams will want to use the ball quickly. The Wallabies will have to be on their mettle against a Wales loose trio that has grown in stature over the last 12 months.
Trivia: Wales will tackle the Wallabies for the first time since losing their main weapons in the fixture. Shane Williams and Stephen Jones - top try-scorer and points-scorer respectively - are no longer part of the international scene.
Stats: Brisbane is not a happy hunting ground for the tourists. They've lost all four of their previous visits, by a total of 129 points.
"It's not worth the risk and it would be negligent, it could compromise him and possibly the team". - Australia coach Robbie Deans rules out a recall for mercurial playmaker Quade Cooper.
"Now I've had a bit of a rest my body is crying out to play again - I'm getting withdrawal symptoms, so the sooner I get back the better." - Wales skipper Sam Warburton dismisses fears over his match-fitness.
Prediction: Wales will continue to pile misery on Robbie Deans and find some solace after their defeat during the World Cup with a narrow win over Australia.
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