By Max Mathews
- Wales name unchanged team
- Alun Wyn Jones will set new caps record
- Australia axe half-backs
TOKYO, JAPAN – Wales have named an unchanged team for the match which should decide the group winner on Sunday in the Japanese capital.
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Renewing the rivalry
Skipper Alun Wyn Jones will break the Wales international caps record, the lock winning his 130th cap and taking him beyond the record of 129 he currently shares with prop Gethin Jenkins.
Sunday’s meeting in Tokyo should decide who finishes top of Pool D, with the victors probably enjoying an easier quarter-final draw.
The match will resume a rivalry which has served up some nail-bitingly close encounters in recent years, including the last meeting 9-6 last November which ended a woeful run of 13 straight losses against Australia dating back to 2008.
Wales were ranked number one in the world as recently as August, while their Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year coincided with a record 14-match winning run.
Wales started their campaign with a comfortable 43-14 win over Georgia on Monday, but will face a much sterner test against Australia in Tokyo.
Wales coach Warren Gatland was happy enough with the performance to name an unchanged side.
There was one alteration made on the Wales bench with centre Owen Watkin in for full-back Leigh Halfpenny as cover for Hadleigh Parkes, who will start despite breaking a bone in his hand against Georgia, while back-row Ross Moriarty was in consideration for a start too.
Blood spilled at training
Following an extreme, punishing training regime in Switzerland, Gatland’s men have transferred that same intensity into their training session.
Hooker Ken Owens admitted on BBC Sport some players disappointed at being left out of the team had taken out that frustration on the starting players. He said: “There’s been a good edge there which shows we’ve got an important game on Sunday.”
Eddie Jones’ England have been accused of over-exertion and too much physical contact in training – is there a point having an edge spills over into increasing the risk of injury? Cheika will hope so.
Australia change around backline
After unconvincing performances in their 39-21 victory over Fiji, where Michael Cheika’s men lacked authority and control, both half-backs have been replaced with rain forecast in the Japanese capital.
Will Genia and Bernard Foley – a pair with 175 Wallabies caps between them – come in for Nic White and Christian Lealiifano, with 34-year-old stand-off Lealiifano dropped from the squad completely.
Neither White nor Lealiifano exactly sparkled against the Pacific Islanders, but axing both after one game? Chopping and changing, especially in key strategic, decision-making positions, is very risky.
Reece Hodge – banned for three matches for his dangerous tackle on Fiji flanker Peceli Yato – is swapped out for veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper, 35, who wins his 120th cap.
There are three other changes to the team while Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Kurtley Beale at full-back.
Australia had beaten New Zealand by a record margin of 47-26 in the Rugby Championship last month and will be looking to recreate that form after looking off-colour against Fiji.
Wales: L Williams; North, Jonathan Davies, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; Wyn Jones, Owens, Francis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Wainwright, Tipuric, Navidi.
Replacements: Smith, Dee, Lewis, Shingler, Moriarty, T Williams, Patchell, Watkin.
Australia: Haylett-Petty; Ashley-Cooper, O’Connor, Kerevi, Koroibete; Foley, Genia; Sio, Latu, Alaalatoa, Rodda, Arnold, Pocock, Hooper (c), Naisarani.
Replacements: Uelese, Slipper, Kepu, Coleman, Salakaia-Loto, White, To’omua, Beale.
Wales v Australia takes place on Sunday 29 September at 8.45am and will be refereed by Frenchman Romaine Poite.
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