Wales ready to fight fire with fire
November 1, 2010
Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards is eyeing revenge for last year's defeat to the Wallabies © Getty Images
Shaun Edwards has pomised that Wales will "have a crack" at Australia in next Saturday's opening autumn international at the Millennium Stadium.
The Wallabies arrive in Cardiff on the back of a stunning 26-24 victory over New Zealand in Hong Kong at the weekend that underlined their capacity to produce a fast-paced and thrilling brand of rugby. Wing James O'Connor's last-gasp try and conversion ended the All Blacks' run of 15 successive Test wins and confirmed Australia as major World Cup contenders next year.
They return to the Welsh capital 12 months after running Wales ragged, a 33-12 triumph even more emphatic than the scoreline suggests. It remains Wales' heaviest home defeat of coach Warren Gatland's 29-Test reign, and the home side could be up against it once more, especially as their front-line casualty count now stands at four after centre Jonathan Davies (ankle) joined Lee Byrne (hand), Leigh Halfpenny (ankle) and Ryan Jones (calf) in being sidelined.
But defence coach Edwards is determined to see Wales at least match Australia's threat. "Obviously, they are a very formidable outfit at the moment," he said. "The last two Test matches we've had against them, we've won one and they were very dominant in the last one, which still hurts. It is something that (Wales captain) Matthew Rees spoke about this week. We are still hurting from that defeat, and we hope to give a lot better account of ourselves.
"I thought in the Tri Nations this year, they (Australia) were the team playing the most rugby. The All Blacks were victorious throughout the Tri Nations in every game, but the way Australia tried to play was great for the development of rugby and for people who like to watch running rugby.
"They are coached by one of the best coaches (Robbie Deans) of all-time, and they are an incredibly difficult team to defend against. But we are up for the challenge. We are very determined to redress what happened last time against them and to repeat what happened the time before."
Gatland is due to announce his starting line-up on Thursday, with Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop the probable centre pairing if, as expected, James Hook features at full-back instead of Byrne. Newport Gwent Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate is likely to enter the back-row equation instead of Jones, with Halfpenny's place being filled by either Tom Prydie, Will Harries or Aled Brew.
"When we get the ball we are going to have a crack at them - it will be two teams playing running rugby against each other," added Edwards. "If someone had said that 12 months ago when there was an average of 40-odd kicks per team in each Test match, you would have probably looked at them as though they had gone insane. But the game has changed in the last 12 months, and I think everyone has got a smile on their face because of that."
Davies' absence though, is another blow on top of Gatland losing an injured British and Irish Lions trio in Byrne, Halfpenny and Jones. Davies suffered ankle ligament damage during a Wales training session last week and has withdrawn from the squad.
"I thought Jonathan played very well in the second Test in New Zealand this summer," said Edwards. "I was very pleased with his defence in that game - him and Jamie Roberts were excellent that day. It is a blow, no doubt, but I am a big believer in what happens, happens, and you just get on with it."
Uncapped Dragons flanker Toby Faletau, meanwhile, has been called into the squad as replacement for Scarlets forward Rob McCusker, who faces a hernia operation. Faletau, 19, is the son of former Tonga international Kuli Faletau, and played for Wales Under-20s in the Six Nations last season.
"I am sure Warren will have a look at him in training, and then decide whether he is included in the match-day squad," continued Edwards. "It is a great step for him and his career. He's a very explosive ball-carrier, he is a guy who can get you over the advantage line and he's got a bit of aggression."
Three other players have also linked up with the Wales squad for training, but have yet to receive full call-ups. They are Wasps No.8 Andy Powell, Cardiff Blues centre Dafydd Hewitt and Scarlets midfield prospect Scott Williams.
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