This is the closest game of the World Cup to call so far. The handicap is marked up at Wales -2 for Sunday’s main event. The Northern hemisphere rugby bubble that we all live in dictates that Wales are the best of the bunch, winning their 12th Grand Slam in 2019, so it all depends on how good these Southern sides really are. They do look good on the telly.
When you look at the head to head, however, the noggin veers to an Aussie win. Australia and Wales have played on 43 occasions, with Australia leading the head-to-head 30-11 with one draw. The two sides have played six matches at Rugby World Cups, with Australia winning five of them and Wales’s sole RWC victory over Australia came way back in 1987.
The most recent form guide between the two sides shows that Wales ended a run of 13 consecutive defeats against Australia when they won their last encounter 9-6 in November 2018. Again, it was a tight one, but there was enough in there to get the mind back to a Welsh win.
Is the -2 handicap for Wales worth a punt? I think so, but with more of a settled side selected this weekend, I think Wales might lay down a marker in this one.
Anytime try scorer
I love this market. It keeps you in the game for longer and this game could go right down to the wire. As you can see from above, there was a 9-6 arm wrestle last year, so there may not even be a try, but I have some thoughts on where we might get one and more importantly, who might get it.
Australia have made four changes to the XV which started against Fiji. Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, and Dane Haylett-Petty all start. Genia and Haylett-Petty began on the bench against Fiji, while Foley and Ashley-Cooper did not make the 23.
The addition of Foley at 10, for me, is crucial.
He is more of a European style (kicking) 10 than Christian Lealiifano, which means the Aussies are going to try and take away some of Wales’ line-speed in defence by going to the boot more often than we may be used to seeing.
So, where is the space going to be? Looking at Wales in defence, they shoot off phase play and off multi-phase. They are almost as aggressive as the South Africans. There will be space for Australia’s wingers if they can get the ball, or, as I see it, run onto some good kicks from Foley.
Marika Koroibete is 6/4 to score a try anytime, but I am opting for more value and age, with Adam Ashley Cooper at 11/5. Ashley-Cooper becomes just the second Wallaby to play in four RWCs after George Gregan. This will be his 18th career RWC match, the most by any player at RWC 2019. Who better to figure out a way around Shaun Edwards’ system than the old dog for the long road.
Man of the match
Should Wales deliver on their favourites tag here, they are going to have to control the game from start to finish against an Australian side who thrive on set-piece plays and open field running.
Field position and goal kicking are going to be key too, alongside keeping James O’Connor and Samu Kerevi quiet in the centres. A massive task in itself. Starving them of ball is key.
Keeping the ball in front of the Welsh pack is another and all of the above points fall on the shoulders of one man. Dan Biggar. Should Wales win it, he has got to have one of the games of his career. He has the potential to unlock the Aussies in attack and is powerful enough, alongside Parkes and Davies, to shut down the green and gold Wallabies in defence.