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‘A non-negotiable’: Owen Watkin labels Wallabies clash a must-win for Wales

By Finn Morton
Australia's Tom Lynagh (L) tackles Wales' Owen Watkin (C) during the rugby union Test match between Australia and Wales at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on July 6, 2024. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Centre Owen Watkin believes it’s a “non-negotiable” for Wales to beat Australia in Melbourne on Saturday, with Warren Gatland’s men hoping to snap a disastrous losing run that spans back to last year’s Rugby World Cup.

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Wales were well and truly in the fight during last weekend’s series opener against the Wallabies in Sydney, with just two points separating the teams after a 65th-minute penalty goal from three-Test flyhalf Ben Thomas.

Australia and the Welsh have played out some epic Test matches over the years, but Wallabies fans will remember an era of dominance in the head-to-head battle. From November 28, 2009, to 11 November 2017, the Aussies didn’t lose to one of their great rivals.

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Warren Gatland post-match briefing after win over Australia

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Warren Gatland post-match briefing after win over Australia

Unfortunately, for Welsh fans up in the early hours of Saturday morning, it was a similar story that played out at Allianz Stadium with fullback Tom Wright scoring a stunning solo try with just over 10 minutes to play. Debutant Tom Lynagh iced the match with a clutch conversion.

It was another one that got away for Wales, with the 25-16 defeat seeing their losing run extend to eight matches. With only one more Test match to play before they break for their off-season, the visitors are both motivated and eager to end their season on a high.

“Obviously, as a squad, we were massively disappointed with the result. We went into the game fully believing we could win and I think we left a lot of opportunities out there,” outside centre Owen Watkin told reporters on Tuesday.

“We obviously weren’t happy with the penalty count and the error count from us as a team but still a massive positive vibe in the squad.

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“It’s sort of a non-negotiable, we need to win on Saturday.

“We put ourselves into a positive to win that game on the weekend and obviously our discipline and our error count let us down.”

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Nine months is a long, long time in international rugby. When the full-time whistle sounded at Lyon’s OL Stadium last October, Wallabies players dropped their heads while their Welsh rivals celebrated a mammoth 40-6 win.

Australia went on to miss the knockout rounds of a men’s Rugby World Cup for the first time while Wales played Argentina in the quarters. But with three-quarters of a year having come and gone since then, both teams are looking to grow.

Wales have a relatively young squad to choose from, while the Aussies turned to seven debutants last time out to kick-start their new era under coach Joe Schmidt. One difference, with the World Cup in the rearview mirror, the Wallabies have found a way to win.

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Back in the winner’s circle, Australia may have a renewed sense of confidence and belief in themselves, but it’s not like that’s playing on the minds of the Welsh players as they focus on getting their preparation right.

“For us, we just focus on ourselves,” Watkin said.

“They can be as confident as they want but it’s down to us putting the work in this week and really be confident going into the game that knowing we had opportunities to win that game, we just fell short.

“You’d like to think that this weekend that doesn’t happen.”

All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

9 Comments
J
John 12 days ago

Australia will get better with another week under Joe Schmidt. Wales will get worse with another week under Gatland.

B
Bull Shark 12 days ago

A must win. Sure.

A will win? No. Aussies will take this and will be the surprise package at the RC.

Joe’s influence is looking positive. And Aussies are, well, Aussies are Aussies. Always strong competititors.

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Wonton 2 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

18 Go to comments
N
Nick 3 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

14 Go to comments
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