Wallabies vs Wales: Bittersweet Australia desperate to maintain hoodoo The hoodoo gurus of Australian rugby, aka the Wallabies, will be looking to extend their 13-Test winning streak against Wales in Cardiff tomorrow morning to kick off a successful tour of Europe and reignite their 2019 World Cup campaign.
The Wallabies have had three coaches — Robbie Deans, Ewen McKenzie and Michael Cheika — since the streak started in 2009, while only a handful of players such as David Pocock, Kurtley Beale and Will Genia remain.
There have been some big wins and some narrow escapes. Do we have a psychological hold on the Welsh or are they due for a win against us?
The most extraordinary thing about the Wallabies’ winning streak against Wales is that they are struggling against the other British and Irish teams.
Not so long ago, the Wallabies held long winning streaks against most of the British and Irish teams. Not anymore.
In recent years, England, Ireland and even Scotland have beaten Australia more times than we have beaten them.
But we are still Wales’s bogey team and apart from his periods as British and Irish Lions coach in 2013 and 2017, Warren Gatland has been Wales coach during the streak.
If Gatland has not figured out how to beat the Wallabies by now, he never will do. I know he did guide the Lions to a series win against Australia in 2013 with a strong Welsh contingent but that’s not quite the same thing.
I’m guessing Wales will adopt similar tactics to the ones they employed in their 21-10 win against Scotland in Cardiff last weekend.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is trying to have the side play with the “highest rhythm” in world rugby, which means he wants them to play an extremely high tempo game.
Gatland instructed Wales’s tactical kickers to kick infield and relied on the rushing Welsh defence to nullify the fast-paced Scottish attack … and it worked.
The Scottish struggled to cope with the rush defence, a tactic the Wallabies have had difficulty with as well.
It was only towards the end of the game that Scotland started to use a kicking game to break up the Welsh wall, and I hope the Wallabies took note.
The Wallabies are also known for trying to play an up-tempo game.
Under Cheika, they have only known one speed — flat out — which has resulted in a lot of costly handling errors, particularly out wide.
But I get the feeling it has finally dawned on Cheika that the Wallabies need to vary the tempo of their game the same way that the All Blacks do.
After the Wallabies’ 37-20 loss to the All Blacks in Yokohama two weeks ago, Cheika made a very telling comment when he said they needed to “die with the ball” more often to build their attack rather than try to score off every play. Hallelujah!
If the Wallabies learn to be more patient in attack in a multiphase game, the Welsh may need to resort to Plan B, which would be to kick for the corners and put pressure on the poor-performing Australian lineout.
In fact, this could very well be Wales Plan A. If the Welsh can force the Wallabies to throw the ball into the lineout in their 22, they have the potential to either steal the ball for themselves or create untidy ball for the Wallabies.
It was interesting to see Cheika show faith in hooker Tolu Latu after his ill-disciplined performance against the All Blacks. Latu needs to repay that faith with good discipline and straight throws.
With the pop-gun kicking of playmakers Bernard Foley and Beale, the Wallabies are in real danger of being pinned in their own territory for long periods.
The Wallabies poor lineout led to speculation during the week about the future of the so-called “Pooper” backrow combination of Michael Hooper and Pocock.
Readers of this column will be aware I have advocated Pocock start in his natural position at openside flanker with Hooper coming off the bench but I cannot see Cheika ever making that hard call, which puts the onus on the third member of the backrow.
It is good to see Jack Dempsey return to the Wallabies run-on side at blindside flanker but while he has great footwork, I’m not sure he is a genuine lineout option, putting added pressure on locks Adam Coleman and Izack Rodda.
The other problematic position for the Wallabies is outside-centre.
It was not surprising to see Samu Kerevi secure the gold number 13 jersey following his impressive performance off the bench against the All Blacks. But Kerevi is a potential weakness in defence.
If I were Gatland, I would be using classy Welsh outside-centre Jonathan Davies and the powerful George North off his wing to exploit the Wallabies midfield defence of Beale and Kerevi.
There are plenty of ways the Welsh can hurt the Wallabies but there have been in all of the past 13 Tests between them that Australia have won.
If the Wallabies are patient in attack, use attacking kicking to beat the rush defence and make their tackles, the hoodoo may last just a little bit longer. If they play into Wales’s hands, well, all good things must come to an end.