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).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent