[QODLink]
Sport
Wales seek winning Wallabies finale
Australia face prospect of a disappointing end to European Tour at Millennium Stadium.
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2009 13:25 GMT

Wales forward Dan Lydiate trains at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff [GALLO/GETTY]
Wales are determined to send Australia home with a meagre record of one win from four Tests in Europe.

The Wallabies are preparing for Saturday's match at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff knowing they face the very realistic prospect of another loss, despite arriving in the northern hemisphere with hopes of their first Grand Slam since 1984.

The Wallabies believe their own tour will be judged less harshly if they can beat Wales in Cardiff.

French confidence is high following a 43-5 victory against Samoa as they aim to end a nine-year drought at against the All Blacks on Saturday.

Les Bleus are even back at the venue of that last home win in 2000, the intimate Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

The other blockbuster match of the weekend pits Ireland against the Springboks, who could redeem a disastrous tour with a win against the European champions at Croke Park.

Elsewhere, Scotland host Argentina, Italy take on Samoa, Portugal meet Tonga for the first time, Namibia play Tunisia for a World Cup berth, and Canada welcome first-time visitors Russia.

Shock-loss

Australia opened their four-Test tour with an efficient 18-9 win over an injury-hit England side before a 20-20 draw at Ireland and error-strewn 9-8 loss to Scotland left the Wallabies reeling.

But Wales players know Australia will still present a dangerous challenge at the end of their long season, if they show anything like the form they found to beat Welsh side Cardiff in a mid-week match.

"They will most definitely be like a wounded animal,'' Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones said.

"We will see if we can maintain the momentum we have picked up after beating Samoa and Argentina, and this will be the telling of how far we have come from last year's autumn series.''

Wales beat Australia 21-18 in last season's corresponding fixture, the most recent match between the two.

The team edged Samoa 17-13 this month and then lost to New Zealand before
outclassing Argentina 33-16.

Jones expects a totally different type of match from Australia, who are developing a promising back line involving centres Quade Cooper and the recalled Digby Ioane.

"It will be a completely different ask for us, especially given the way Australia are playing in the back-line, the way they are constructing their moves and playing rugby,'' Jones said.

"They are another major southern hemisphere side, but they will pose a completely different challenge.

"People say their attack hasn't been great from the ball they've been getting, but their backs are flourishing off whatever ball they get.''

Changes

Australia showed a return to form with a mid-week win against Cardiff [GALLO/GETTY]
Coach Robbie Deans made three changes to the team that lost to Scotland on
a last-minute missed conversion by Matt Giteau.

Ioane is back after recovering from a shoulder injury, while flanker David Pocock and lock Dean Munn come in for George Smith and Mark Chisholm.

Pocock was man of the match in Dublin, when only a last-minute converted try by Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll prevented the Wallabies from winning, but was rested for what turned out to be his country's first loss to Scotland in 27 years.

Australia have won 17 of the teams' 28 meetings including three straight before last year. Wales have won 10 times and the sides drew 29-29 in 2006.

Wales captain Ryan Jones will start at No. 8 if he is fit. If not, flanker Andy Powell could cover for him and Jonathan Thomas come in at blindside for his 50th appearance.

French challenge

France has not stopped celebrating their win over the All Blacks in June.

France used that first win on New Zealand soil in 15 years - 27-22 in Dunedin - to believe they were back on the road to respectability, and they could face down the Southern Hemisphere rugby powers.

Two weeks ago, the French cited the victory as inspiration before playing South Africa, and duly outmuscled the Tri-Nations champion 20-13 in Toulouse.

"I hope all the players realise what's at stake,'' said France coach Marc Lievremont.

Though 11 of the France line-up which won at Carisbrook are starters again, none believe victory will be as convincing as it was five months ago.

That's because the All Blacks are at full-strength, and have back influential captain Richie McCaw and flyhalf Dan Carter, who missed that drawn June series with injuries.

The All Blacks have beaten Australia, Wales, Italy and England on successive Saturdays and gone through Europe with a clean tryline, though without the fear they induced on their Grand Slam tour of the Home Unions a year ago.

"They are a complete team once more. Their squad is full of confidence,'' Lievremont said.

"We still feel like we can compete. We will put in an outstanding game against them"

France coach
Marc Lievremont

"We still feel like we can compete. We will put in an outstanding game against them.''

The All Blacks are equally desperate to end a mediocre year on a high.

"Over the last six years we've done the European tour four times with two Grand Slams, and we're very proud of our record here,'' coach Graham Henry said.

"Other sides have tried to emulate that and haven't done so and it just shows you it's not easy.

"We're proud of what we've achieved this tour, (and) we'd like to add a bit of finish to what we're doing.''

Ireland will be trying for a third straight win over the Boks without their deadliest kicker, Ronan O'Gara, who has been demoted to the reserves for a better look at the latest assumed heir, Jonathan Sexton, who had a fine debut against Fiji.

Scotland will be out to beat the Pumas at home for the first time since 1990, and Italy will be seeking their first ever win over Samoa after three defeats, the last in 2001.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Polio remains endemic in Pakistan as health workers battle anti-vaccine prejudice and threat to life by armed groups.
Despite 14-year struggle for a new mosque in the second-largest city, new roadblocks are erected at every turn.
Authorities and demonstrators have shown no inclination to yield despite growing economic damage and protest pressure.
Lebanese-born Rula Ghani may take cues from the modernising Queen Soraya, but she'll have to proceed with caution.
One of the world's last hunter-gatherer tribes has been forced from the forest it called home by a major dam project.