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Wallabies now a ‘different animal’, warns Wales coach

By PA
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Head coach Joe Schmidt talks with Noah Lolesio and Nic White during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Mike Forshaw expects Wales to encounter “a different animal” from the 2023 World Cup in Saturday’s first Test against Australia.

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When Wales last met the Wallabies they posted a record 40-6 victory as Australia’s World Cup campaign unravelled with indecent haste.

With former England head coach Eddie Jones at the helm, Australia made a pool stage exit for the first time after also losing to Fiji.

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Jones departed just 10 months into a five-year contract, with Australian rugby chiefs then turning to ex-Ireland boss Joe Schmidt.

Schmidt, who masterminded three Six Nations title triumphs during his stint with Ireland, takes charge for the first time in Sydney this weekend.

“They will be a different side, a different animal from the last time we played them,” Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Forshaw said.

“I think they will be a lot more structured under Joe Schmidt, and they will know exactly what they are going for.

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“He is a forensic coach, and we have to be really alive around the middle of the field and at the breakdown. They will be clinical and will want fast ball.

“It is a long time since Wales won in Australia, and they are a different team to play against over here.

“Once an Australian sports team gets its foot on the pedal they really know how to drive it. We will really have to be on our mettle.”

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Wales have arrived Down Under following a run of seven successive Test defeats that stretches back almost nine months, with their most recent loss coming against world champions South Africa, who won 41- 13 at Twickenham last month.

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And their record against the Wallabies in Australia is a miserable one, having lost 11 games on the bounce against them since posting a 19-16 victory 55 years ago.

Forshaw added: “We have had a massive shift since the World Cup after losing a lot of senior players.

“We aren’t where we need to be yet, but at the end of this tour, I would like to think we will have taken some steps forward.

“We are in the business of winning rugby matches, and we need to start winning matches.

“When that starts happening, and I am confident it will, we can really develop over the next 12 months.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to name his starting line-up for the Sydney Test on Thursday.

Changes from the Springboks game can be expected, including a possible all-Exeter second-row pairing of Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza, plus a start for Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell.

It is Wales’ first meeting with the Wallabies in Australia since 2012, and will be followed by a second Test in Melbourne before a tour finale against Queensland Reds on July 19.

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finn 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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