Wales look to the heavens for help

Any doubts as to how Wales intend to beat Tri-Nations opposition for just the second time in 11 efforts were put to rest yesterday when, for the first time in his tenure, coach Warren Gatland insisted on the Millennium Stadium roof being open.

If the Wallabies are to be flattened, it is the home tight- five who are going to do the flattening. Preferably face first into the mud.

The Welsh camp were keen to stress this was not a negative move as the forecast is fine. But, as the downpour continued into the evening, those predictions looked more opportunistic than ever. Judging by the smirks of a few of the Welsh management during training at the stadium yesterday, a deluge would not be unwelcome.

Dismiss the brave but rather outrageous attempt by the skills coach, Rob Howley, to claim that Wales were exposing themselves to the elements with an eye on next year's showpiece Down Under. "The big picture for us is there is a Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year, and we know the conditions having toured there in the summer," he said, somehow keeping a straight face. The truth is rather simpler.

After watching Australia beat New Zealand in Hong Kong last weekend, and after seeing this redoubtable attacking outfit improve steadily over the Tri-Nations series, it is blindingly obvious that it is from Nos 1 to 5 where Wales' best chances lie. Gatland's men have suffered from debilitating injuries in the back row and in the backs, but in the engine room they will be operating at full throttle. The Lions front-row is reunited for just the second time since that 2009 tour in South Africa, while in behind Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies are the two first-choice locks. Expect the last-named to take it to Australia.

"I wouldn't mind putting the ball in Bradley Davies' hands as much as possible," said Gatland, missing his main ball-carriers in Ryan Jones and Jamie Roberts. "We're giving him a bit of licence. He's a player that's really come on in the last 12 months."

All very encouraging, although Gatland would be just as thrilled to see the scrum making early inroads. The Australians' vulnerability in the set-piece is one of international rugby's great cliches, but, as Gatland pointed, out it can be a key area. "If there is one way of beating Australia it's to put them under pressure up front," said the Kiwi. "It's psychological. I think when England won down there in the summer it started from a very, very dominant scrum. At times, it has been frail and at other times it's been on song. It depends."

Last year, was a case of the latter. "The players have spoken how they want to make a few amends about how they were embarrassed up front that day," said Gatland, referring to the 33-12 humbling. Any repeat of this will inevitably see the Australian points-machine crank up, although with a 20-year-old – James O'Connor – assuming the kicking duties from Matt Giteau, this might have also have influenced Wales' open-roof philosophy.

"The problem with the roof being closed is that kickers who tend to struggle at other venues come to the Millennium and kick 100 per cent," Gatland said. "Sometimes you wouldn't mind the elements having an effect." Particularly, when the kicker is only just out of nappies, he might have added.

Saying that, Gatland did pay homage to O'Connor's last-minute, touchline kick last Saturday which gave Australia victory. That win will have imbued them with much confidence and, if they gain so much as parity in the forwards, it could be a long afternoon for Wales. They still have their talented attackers in Shane Williams and James Hook but the query must be whether they can be put in positions to hurt the visitors.

There is plenty expected of flankers Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton, who must rise to the immense challenge set by the destructive openside, David Pocock. In fact, there are threats everywhere and for that reason it is wise to play this under the heavens. There has been much made of the stadium only being only two-thirds full and £65-a-pop is a lot to get rained upon. But an overdue win against a southern hemisphere giant would warm them up. However it is achieved.

Wales: J Hook; W Harries, T Shanklin, A Bishop, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees (capt), A Jones, B Davies, A W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, J Thomas. Replacements: H Bennett, P James, D Jones, M Williams, R Rees, D Biggar, C Czekaj.

Australia: K Beale; J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, M Giteau, D Mitchell: Q Cooper, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, M Chisholm, N Sharpe, R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, B McCalman. Replacements: S Faingaa, J Slipper, D Mumm, R Brown, L Burgess, B Barnes, L Turner. Referee: W Barnes (England).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project