Or does it?
In typical style, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika railed against the narrative and cast doubt over whether Wales will pepper his wingers with high kicks throughout Sunday’s high stakes match at Tokyo Stadium.
Wales are masters of the tactic and their assistant coach Shaun Edwards seemed to lay out their battle plan when talking about their aerial prowess 24 hours out from kickoff.
Cheika said he wasn’t fooled by the talk that Adam Ashley-Cooper and Marika Koroibete will spend the game looking skyward, suggesting it could be a classic red herring from counterpart Warren Gatland.
“I’m not sure where this has come from, that we’re going to get a barrage of kicks” Cheika said.
“If we do, we’ll be ready for it. If we don’t, we’ll be ready to tackle if they start running.
“The minute you start thinking it’s going to go one way, smart coaches like Gatland, these guys aren’t silly, they go the other way.”
Cheika rubbished a suggestion Ashley-Cooper would be the chief target for kicks, having not played any game on the wing for nearly a year.
“I picked him so he’s up to the task,” he said.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 29, 2019
Edwards name-dropped the 2009 Wallabies as the reason for Wales’ focus on box kicking, pointing to a humbling 33-12 thrashing from the tourists a decade ago in Cardiff.
Then-coach Robbie Deans sent his Wallabies wingers Drew Mitchell and Peter Hynes on a leap and destroy mission, targeting petite Welsh wingers Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.
“That was a big turning point for us really, that’s when we started to really practise our aerial work, which is really prolific in the game at the moment,” Edwards said.
“Since then we’ve practised that incessantly and I’d like to think we’d improved a little bit of that.”
Edwards identified Australia’s driving maul from lineouts as their most potent threat after the Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu bagged a double through that method in the opening win over Fiji.
“It definitely got them out of trouble,” he said.
In a possible dig at the Australia’s surprise selection changes, Edwards didn’t nominate any of their outside backs as threats, instead pointing to potential bench impact of demoted fullback Kurtley Beale.
The winners of Sunday’s game will be favoured to finish group play unbeaten and probably face France or Argentina, rather than a power-packed England, in the quarter-finals.
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