By Rhys Thomas
June 15 2012
After last week's 27-19 defeat, Wales will be out for revenge at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
Warren Gatland has rejoined the Welsh camp ahead of tomorrow’s game, and although it is difficult to know what role he will take, it is undoubtedly a boost to the squad. There are also some crucial changes to the starting line-up, with Matthew Rees, Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones bringing crucial Lions experience to the pack. Ashley Beck, who won his first cap last week, replaces Scott Williams, who is demoted to the bench. The whole squad have now played in Australia, and there are no excuses for this week’s performance.
A loss tomorrow would render the whole tour a disappointment, even if they were then to win next week. The main objective is to win the series, and that is still in their grasp. Australia aren’t unbeatable – imagine being in Ireland’s situation, facing a rampant New Zealand. If Pocock and Genia are neutralised, then Wales have the backs and set-piece to win. The lineout and scrum were fairly successful last week, and if George North and Alex Cuthbert get the ball in their hands we know what they can do – North is genuinely a world class wing, and his return from a dead leg will be a welcome relief.
James Hook has been left on the bench – the Welsh management should have more confidence in him. He’s an underrated player and Rhys Priestland hasn’t played well since the World Cup. Hook is one of Wales’ most creative players and sticking with the out of form Priestland won’t do Howley and co any favours.
If Sam Warburton and Mike Phillips suppress their opposite numbers – they will win. It is as simple is that. I think Wales will win tomorrow, they have a game in Australia under their belts and the benefit of that can’t be underestimated. The tempo of the game was too much for them last week, but now they know what to expect and will have prepared suitably.
PREDICTION: Wales to win by 5
Australia : Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW); Cooper Vuna (Melbourne), Rob Horne (NSW), Pat McCabe (ACT), Digby Ioane (Queensland); Berrick Barnes (NSW), Will Genia (Queensland); Benn Robinson (NSW), Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW), Sekope Kepu (NSW), Rob Simmons (Queensland), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland), David Pocock (Western Force, capt), Wycliff Palu (NSW).
Replacements : Stephen Moore (ACT), Ben Alexander (ACT), Dave Dennis (NSW), Michael Hooper (ACT), Nic White (ACT), Anthony Fainga'a (Queensland), Mike Harris (Queensland).
Wales : Leigh Halfpenny (Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues, capt), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).
Replacements : Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Scott Williams (Scarlets)