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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Disjointed Wales in for another slow start against Wallabies

Gatland's side in transition for autumn opener

Australia were 32-8 winners in Cardiff in 2016
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Autumn International
BBC2 & S4C, 5.15pm Saturday

Wales have to overcome a couple of pretty sorry statistics if they are to get anything from the first match of a daunting autumn schedule against the Wallabies.

Firstly, they haven’t beaten Australia since 2008, a run of 12 consecutive defeats, seven of which were in Cardiff and another two in the World Cup.

And it’s 2002 since the Welsh wontheir first match of the autumn series when they beat Romania and Fiji in their opening two games.

Australia were the victorious visitors in the last two November series in 2016 and 2014 with a World Cup between, while they also triumphed in 2010.

There are various reasons for the slow start Wales traditionally make and they could be exacerbated this year as due to the Lions tour, this is the first time the squad has been together since the end of the Six Nations.

And it is a much-changed squad with no Sam Warburton or Dan Lydiate in the back row, scrum-half Rhys Webb dropped and winger George North injured.

The inclusion of the previously oft-overlooked Owen Williams at inside centre in place of powerhouse Jamie Roberts gives the strongest indication that Wales are looking to move to a more expansive game, but it’s a transition that will take time with an unfamiliar line-up and the Wales attack has long lacked sharpness.

Other Autumn internationals

England v Argentina

Ireland v South Africa

Scotland v Samoa

France v New Zealand

Wales have scored only 43 tries in 20 matches since the start of 2016, and given that nearly a quarter of those came in the nine-try blowout against Italy in the last round of the Six Nations last year, that’s a modest tally for such a talented squad.

Australia, fresh from bouncing back after a hammering on and off the pitch in their Rugby Championship opener, beat the All Blacks last month and have the talent to cover a small handicap.

They would be an even more confident pick if full-back Israel Folau was in the side, but Kurtley Beale is looking better than ever and a physical Wallaby midfield could open up the game for Beale to shine.

Australia -4

3pts 10-11 Betfair, Paddy Power
K Beale to score a try
1pt 3-1 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Since the start of 2016 Wales have scored 43 tries in 20 matches
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