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?
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum