Australia v Wales: Five Key Battles
Following wins against England for both Australia and Wales, the attention has now moved to their monumental battle at Twickenham this afternoon, which is arguably the biggest game of the Rugby World Cup so far.
Stakes going into the clash are high as the teams find themselves in a one-on-one battle to finish top of the Pool with the loser having to go onto face two-time world champions South Africa in the quarter-finals.
The Wallabies are unbeaten against Wales in ten matches and the pair rarely have games that are anything other than box office and in an electric atmosphere this afternoon you can expect more of the same.
Here are five key duels that we think could decide the outcome of they game:
Dan Biggar v Bernard Foley
Both number 10’s excelled as their respective nations gunned down England at Twickenham so it will be interesting which one of the pair sparkles again. Biggar may be the most deadly goal-kicker in the world right now with the Welshman being on a run of 13 successful shots at this World Cup. Foley, who is also a good goal kicker, is a former sevens player and, therefore, possesses a better running game than his opposite number, which he demonstrated with two outstanding tries against England last weekend. This dual provides a contrast in styles so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Gareth Anscombe v Israel Folau
Starting his first test at 15, Anscombe has the laborious task of outshining one of the best fullbacks in world rugby at the moment in Folau. The Welsh-qualified New Zealander knows all about the Australian superstar from his time playing against him in Super Rugby and will look to use that experience to his advantage. If Anscombe can keep Folau quiet Wales chances of winning the game will significantly improve.
Sam Warburton v Sean McMahon
Although their first choice Michael Hooper is unavailable due to suspension Wales Captain Warburton will still go to war with a worthy adversary in the highly-rated McMahon. The pair are very different with McMahon being more of a quick footed ball carrier player while the Wales skipper is more of a traditional all-action, hard-tackling flanker. It will be significant that Warburton can get control of the back-row to ensure the Wales pack can get on the front foot, which is something England failed to do at all against the Wallabies last Saturday.
Taulupe Faletau v David Pocock
Pocock was vital in Australia’s dismantling of England last time out as he turned the ball over for his side three times at the breakdown. Therefore, this is a huge head-to-head with a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Faletau to try and neutralise the impact the ‘turnover king’ Pocock can have on the game. The back-row battle could decide whether Wales can get a foothold in the game or whether they fail to get into gear similar to England last week.
Samson Lee v Sekope Kepu
The scrummage could be where this crucial match is won and lost, making the roles of heavyweight props Lee and Kepu significant in the game. Although there will be concerns about the match fitness of Lee, he is probably their most stable prop, which makes him essential to Wales perhaps getting the upper hand in this area. His opposite number Kepu caused all sorts of problems for England’s Marler in the scrum last week, dispelling any myths about a weak Australian set-piece. The winner of this dual may give his nation the edge that proves vital.