It does not get any easier for Wales: Last weekend it was Dan Carter pulling the strings for New Zealand and on Saturday it will be the equally impressive Matt Giteau doing likewise for Australia as Warren Gatland's men attempt to achieve an overdue win in the autumn series of internationals.
Wales managed a reasonable containing job on New Zealand's fly-half Carter last Saturday but Giteau has shone throughout Australia's unbeaten European tour, guiding them to a biggest victory over England at Twickenham since 1984 and wins over France and Italy. He has averaged 15 points during the last three games and Gatland knows the Western Force fly-half is producing irresistible form.
"When Dan Carter is on top of his game and dominating, the All Blacks get a flow, and it's the same with Australia and Giteau, Gatland said. "They are very reliant on his kicking game, but also his running game. We've just got to make sure we shut down his space. He is deceptively strong in the tackle area, he runs nice lines and he knows when to take a gap. We did a lot of work last week [on Carter], and it will be the same sort of approach this week in terms of trying to shut down Matt's game."
Gatland has made two changes to his team for the autumn Test finale, with the Scarlets wing Mark Jones replacing Cardiff Blues' teenager Leigh Halfpenny and the lock Ian Gough taking over from his injured Ospreys colleague Ian Evans, who faces surgery after suffering knee ligament damage during the defeat to New Zealand.
Jones gains only his second start of the autumn after a knee injury kept him out for the narrow defeat against world champions South Africa. One switch on the bench sees Scarlets scrum-half Martin Roberts in for Dwayne Peel. Because the Wallabies match falls outside the International Rugby Board autumn Test window, Peel's club commitments take priority and Sale are in Premiership action against Leicester on Friday. Halfpenny, misses out on a place in the match-day 22, but Gatland added: "Leigh has represented himself well in his first three caps and made a real impact. But he is a young man and, after three huge games in succession, we have decided to look after him and have him sit this one out."
The Australia coach Robbie Deans made five changes yesterday. Four come in the forwards where Western Force No 8 Richard Brown replaces Wycliff Palu, who injured his shoulder against France last weekend. Phil Waugh will start at flanker and the Brumbies lock Mark Chisholm and the Waratahs prop Benn Robinson are also included.Reuse content