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Wales face Australia on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup with both teams knowing that their place in the knockout stages of the tournament is already secure. With both sides having already defeated tournament hosts England, Saturday’s match is now a straight shootout to see who will secure top spot in Pool A.
Wales have lost their last 10 matches against Australia and Wales coach Warren Gatland has commented this week that his side will need to step-up on what they have produced so far in the tournament if they are to seal victory. Gatland has named a side featuring six changes from the team that secured victory over Fiji last week. New Zealand born Gareth Anscombe will make his debut at full-back with Liam Williams returning on the wing after recovering from concussion. George North switches from the wing to outside centre to partner Jamie Robert’s in the Welsh midfield. In the forwards, prop Paul James returns from injury with Luke Charteris featuring in the second row. Captain Sam Warburton moves to blindside flanker with the in-form Justin Tipuric handed the openside berth. The selection of Tipuric alongside Warburton will see Wales look to dominate the breakdown as Australia did last week against England. Success in this area by stifling quick Australian ball could see Wales gain a massive advantage and Gatland is hoping this is a gamble that will pay off.
Australian coach Michael Cheika has been forced to make two changes to his side with injury ruling out winger Rob Horne and flanker Michael Hooper who is suspended. Hooper is suspended after he was found guilty of using his shoulder illegally to clear out England full-back Mike Brown in last weeks victory over England. Drew Mitchell replaces the injured Horne on the wing with Sean McMahon coming into replace Hooper. McMahon, who is only 21, is the least experienced player in the Australian squad but he has been named as rookie of the year by the Australian press. Cheika has also named full-back Israel Folau in his side, with the 26-year-old recovering from an ankle injury that forced him off against England.
The winner of Saturday’s match will face a quarter-final against either Japan or Scotland, with a likely semi-final clash against Argentina, France or Ireland. The losers on Saturday however will face dual World Cup winners South Africa in the quarter-final.
Australia are the 1.36 (4/11) favourites for victory on Saturday with Wales 3.75 (11/4) and the draw 26 (25/1). The rugby tip for Saturday’s match is Wales on the handicap receiving a 7 point start at 2.1 (11/10).
By: Scott McGlynn