Rugby World Cup: Australia v Wales Preview5 min read
One of the most eagerly anticipated games of the pool stage takes place on Sunday as Australia take on Wales in Tokyo.
It is likely to be a huge physical battle with the winners set to top the group and secure an easier route to the World Cup semi-finals.
Strong start from Wales
Wales have twice reached the last-four of the tournament but Warren Gatland has openly said he thinks their current team are good enough to win the World Cup. Gatland bows out after the competition and will be focused on delivering their best ever performance.
In their opening game on Monday, the Six Nations Grand Slam champions dominated Georgia to win 43-14. Their attack fired in the first half as tries from Jonathan Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Adams and Liam Williams opened up a 29-0 lead.
Wales were not as fluent in the second half but added further scores from Tomos Williams and George North to complete a convincing win.
Gatland was clearly content with their first match as the head coach has opted to keep the same team for their match against Australia. It will be a big moment for captain Alun Wyn Jones, with the influential forward becoming their most capped player this weekend in his 130th Test for Wales.
Wallabies wobble during opening win
Australia reached the World Cup final four years ago and have a rich history in the tournament, winning it twice. But the Wallabies have come into this year’s edition with expectations lower than usual after an indifferent run of results.
There are still no shortage of match winners in their side with the likes of world class forwards David Pocock and Michael Hooper, but Australia are not among the most fancied teams to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Australia stuttered early on in their opener against Fiji and had to work very hard to turn the match around.
The Wallabies found themselves 21-12 down in the second half but fought back to claim a 39-21 win. Fiji’s shock defeat against Uruguay, in their second match, does not reflect particularly well either and there is no doubt Australia will need to improve if they are to overcome Wales.
Head coach Michael Cheika has brought half-backs Will Genia and Bernard Foley into the team in place of Nic White and Cristian Lealiifano. Adam Ashley-Cooper replaces wing Reece Hodge after he was banned for three games for a dangerous tackle.
Wales to edge tight contest
This match is finely balanced with Wales narrow 4/6 favourites and it would be a surprise if either team won by a big margin.
Australia had won 13 successive games against them until last November when Wales clinched a long-awaited 9-6 victory in Cardiff.
This win could be very significant because it would be difficult to fancy Wales if they had not claimed a recent success against the Wallabies. In 12 of the last 13 clashes, there has been no more than nine points between the teams and their World Cup showdown looks likely to be similarly close.
Wales’ world class defence could be the deciding factor, against an Australia team that has been exposed over the last couple of years, suggesting backing Gatland’s side to win by no more than seven points is generously priced at 27/10.
Tip: Wales to win by one to seven points