5 talking points as Wales host Wallabies with Pivac's job in doubt
Wales end their Autumn Nations Series campaign when they tackle the Wallabies in Cardiff on Saturday. Wayne Pivac and his players are reeling from a 13-12 home defeat against Georgia last time out, ramping up the pressure for Australia’s visit. Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the game.
There are some who feel that Pivac’s time is up as Wales head coach following the humiliating loss to Georgia. It came just eight months after Wales were beaten at home by Italy, with the New Zealander’s success rate since he succeeded Warren Gatland three years ago registering under 40 per cent.
Victory over Australia is a minimum requirement, although the damage might have already been done. Just ten months out from the World Cup in France, Welsh Rugby Union chiefs have arrived at a crossroads. Do they carry on with Pivac’s journey or turn off the engine?
Banking on experience
If Wales do get over the line and claim a fourth successive victory over Australia, then experience will have played a major part. Former Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones and full-back Leigh Halfpenny are among those to be recalled, and when centre George North, hooker Ken Owens, flanker Justin Tipuric and number eight Taulupe Faletau are added to the mix, those six players alone boast a combined total of 626 Wales caps.
Jones and North are already into three figures, while Faletau makes his 100th Test appearance for Wales and the British and Irish Lions this weekend.
Fascinating crowd dynamic
Wales’ attendances for the Autumn Nations Series have held up well, with more than 195,000 people watching games against New Zealand, Argentina and Georgia. A crowd of around 60,000 is likely for Australia’s Principality Stadium visit, but it is not about numbers this time, more about the reception Pivac and his players will receive after they were embarrassed by Georgia.
Welsh fans are renowned for loyalty and passion, with no question of them not being behind the team. If it all unravels again this weekend, though, patience could be a rare commodity. Even Welsh supporters can only take so much.
Tourists limping home
The Wallabies have been decimated by injuries for their final game of a punishing European tour. After losing to France and Italy, their 13-10 reversal against Ireland last time out came at a huge cost. Former captain Michael Hooper, centre Hunter Paisami, scrum-half Nic White and prop Taniela Tupou are among those sidelined, with head coach Dave Rennie’s resources stretched.
Australia, though, know that Wales are also on the ropes, and it would still be no surprise if they rediscovered a winning formula against them after reeling off 13 successive victories in the fixture between 2009 and 2017.
What recent history predicts?
That 13-match losing streak was a painful one for Wales, particularly as six of those defeats were by five points or less. But the last three encounters have gone Wales’ way, winning 9-6 in 2018, 29-25 at the 2019 World Cup and 29-28 last year when Rhys Priestland booted a penalty with the game’s final kick to break Australian hearts.
Wales have never beaten the Wallabies four times in succession, so the accomplishment of such a feat would at least lift spirits at the end of an international year when Pivac’s men were defeated by South Africa (twice), New Zealand, France, England, Ireland, Italy and Georgia.
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