Wales move focus on to Australia after bonus-point success against Portugal

The Wallabies encounter could decide which team finishes top of Pool C.

Andrew Baldock
Sunday 17 September 2023 09:30 BST
Wales saw off Portugal on Saturday (David Davies/PA)
Wales saw off Portugal on Saturday (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Jonathan Humphreys has predicted “a hell of a game” when Rugby World Cup rivals Wales and Australia go head-to-head in Lyon.

Top spot in Pool C could be on the line next Sunday and Wales know that objective will move closer into view if they topple the Wallabies.

Australia have beaten them in five of their seven previous World Cup meetings, but bonus-point victories over Fiji and Portugal mean that Wales are in decent shape.

“It is going to be a hell of a game – there is going to be a lot riding on that,” Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist Humphreys said.

“We have got an eight-day turnaround, so hopefully we will have a full squad to choose from. A few boys have rested up after a tough Fiji game.

“It will be interesting to see how they come out. He (Australia head coach Eddie Jones) has always got something different in his game.

“The players he has available to him right now are a hell of a squad, and we are looking forward to what will be an incredibly tough match.”

Wales, showing 12 changes from the side that defeated Fiji, struggled to impose themselves at times against a Portugal team relishing their first World Cup appearance since 2007.

But ultimately, a 28-8 success – and a bonus point collected in the dying seconds when Taulupe Faletau scored Wales’ fourth try – meant it was a case of job done.

Humphreys added: “We are delighted to get 10 points from the first two games. If you had offered that to us before we came out here we would have taken your hand off.

“There were a lot of boys who hadn’t played for a while – we made a lot of changes. It was great that we got a bonus point, and they’ve also got a fair bit of game-time.

We are in a pretty good place, but we know we need to improve and get better if we are to do the job against Australia

Jonathan Humphreys

“The first game (against Fiji) was obviously massive for us. As a squad we really came together after that game, saying ‘it’s a good start’.

“The support the team that played against Portugal had from the rest (of the squad) tells us the spirit is there.

“We are in a pretty good place, but we know we need to improve and get better if we are to do the job against Australia.”

Fitness-wise, Wales will need to run the rule over flanker Tommy Reffell and prop Henry Thomas when they arrive back at their training base in Versailles.

Thomas, who has a hamstring issue, is the only player in Wales’ 33-strong World Cup squad not to have been involved against Fiji or Portugal.

Reffell, meanwhile, was due to face Portugal but a tight calf muscle meant he withdrew during final pre-match preparations and Jac Morgan replaced him.

“Tommy is an incredibly tough bloke, but it was the right decision,” Humphreys said.

“He was in agreement with that. If he pulled his calf, he is probably gone for the tournament. It was done as a precaution to make sure that he is not too long out.

“Jac is incredible. He wasn’t due to be involved, and the non-(matchday) 23 (including Morgan) did weights and extra-conditioning in the morning. He is an incredible player.”

Humphreys also highlighted Faletau’s major contribution in only his second start since a calf injury meant he took no part during Wales’ three World Cup warm-up Tests.

“He is a massive player for us,” Humphreys added. “To see him chasing back, make that (try-saving) tackle and get to his feet to go for the ball, he is a huge player and he will get better and better.

“That’s the thing about world-class players, on big moments like that they step up and do something. We are looking forward to seeing what more he can do.”

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