10 mins. On the latest attack, Tomos Williams dummies and goes from the ruck 20 metres out and manages to offload to Alun-Wyn Jones on his shoulder who suddenly has some space to run into and pops it off with one hand to Morgan who drives and stretches over the line with three tacklers on him.
8 mins. Alun Wyn Jones takes the ball at the tail and drop it to Faletau who is gathering pace on the peel run. He’s through one tackle and the next phase sees Lewis bump another few metres into the 5 metre before Tomos Williams fumbles his pickup at the base of the ruck.
Another unforced error, but that was better from Wales.
6 mins. Some possession in the Aus half for Wales is moved through the hands in a few phases, but it’s once again a little ponderous and allows Ikitau to swarm all over North who puts the ball down. But it was a knock on by the Aussie man!
Wales win the penalty from the scrum and will have a lineout deep in Australian territory.
3 mins. Wales have an Aus scrum to deal with on their own 22, and the green and gold pack splinter the home side twice, the second one resulting in a penalty after Gareth Thomas is folded by Allan Alaalatoa.
Donaldson calls for the tee and that’s an easy three from him and lead for Australia early
1 min. Ref Carley blows hard on his oboe of objectivity and the ball is sent long for Wales to cock up gathering the ball, Adam Beard letting it slip through his big mitts.
The teams are on the way out, Wales accompanied by the usual Metallica soundtrack, jets of flame and fireworks, which given the way they’v been playing is like me blasting Springsteen out while I fail to achieve 25 press ups.
Late team news dept!
Another late withdrawal from the unlucky Halfpenny
Warren Gatland is a pitchside pundit on the telly, dressed in a suit concept I can best describe as “Essence of Weetabix”, being badgered by Sarra Elgan about whether he’s coming back to Wales.
This is all happening while Wayne Pivac wanders about in the background observing his team warming up.
A worrying time for both coaches is considered by Michael Aylwin…
Both coaches are stymied in selection this week as the fixture falls outside the agreed international window.
Wayne Pivac has handed a debut at inside centre to young Osprey (and rhythm guitarist from the current tour line-up of The Doobie Brothers), Joe Hawkins. He’s a talented lad, who plays much of his club rugby at out-half, so a definite second-playmaker option for Wales. Elsewhere in the backs Leigh Halfpenny returns to fullback.
In addition to those not available due to window rules, Australia have an injury list so long and comprehensive that Dave Rennie has been looking to add Bluey’s dad to the squad as cover. Multiple absences result in Ben Donaldson at ten, Reece Hodge playing 12 and pretty much all new back five in the pack.
Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. George North, 12. Joe Hawkins, 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Tomos Williams; 1. Gareth Thomas, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Dillon Lewis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Jac Morgan, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Rhodri Jones, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Ben Carter, 20. Josh Macleod, 21. Kieran Hardy, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Josh Adams
Australia: 15. Tom Wright, 14. Jordan Petaia, 13. Len Ikitau, 12. Reece Hodge, 11. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10. Ben Donaldson, 9. Jake Gordon; 1. James Slipper (c), 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Nick Frost, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Jed Holloway, 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Langi Gleeson
Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Tom Robertson, 18. Sam Talakai, 19. Ned Hanigan 20. Pete Samu, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Noah Lolesio, 23. Jock Campbell
Welcome to the Principality MalaiseDome is Cardiff, where Wales will take on Australia in the Underachievement Bowl.
What a year it’s been for these two, and not in a good way. An historic win in SA is among the highlights for Wales, but this was amongst losing 8 from 11 this year; and should Australia lose today that will be 10 in 14 – their worst 12 months for nearly 70 years.
Autumn Internationals are generally low stakes affairs in the grand scheme of things, and these extra rounds with missing players have even more of this stench. But, given the records above and both coaches sensing the impending danger of the Head of HR tapping on their shoulder to come to a meeting about their future, this one feels to have a bit more jeopardy than usual. A win here will calm the sack-chat a little bit and allow the victor to make noises about moving forward with positivity or some other word salad; but it will be better that the recrimination chat the loser will be engaged in.
Expect a close affair as matches between the two are often within a score. For a decade it was a late Australia score repeatedly splintering Welsh souls until the hoodoo was shaken more recently with some home victories. How both teams will want their best version of it today.