We’ve had France v New Zealand. We’ve had South Africa v Ireland. Test matches don’t come much bigger than either of those two. But Rugby World Cup games also don’t come with much more at stake than this one, between Wales and Australia in Lyon.
Australia’s 22-15 loss to Fiji last weekend threw Pool C wide open. Defeat here could all-but end their hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase. That would be unwelcome news, after Rugby Australia’s CEO Phil Waugh said reaching the semi-finals would be ‘a pass’.
Ben Donaldson switches from full-back to fly-half for the Wallabies, with Carter Gordon dropping to the bench and Andrew Kellaway starting at 15. Other changes see Tate McDermott return at scrum-half while Robert Leota starts at blindside flanker, with Tom Hooper switching to openside. Hooker David Porecki captains in the absence of the injured Will Skelton.
Wales, meanwhile, have 10 points out of a possible 10 – and win here would ensure a place in the last eight with one pool phase round to go. But it’s far from a given.
Head coach Warren Gatland has recalled 12 players from the opening match against Fiji after they were rested against Portugal. Only Taulupe Faletau, Louis Rees-Zammit and captain Jac Morgan hold on to their starting slots, while Adam Beard will earn his 50th Welsh cap, and 51st altogether.
FIXTURE: Wales v Australia
GROUND: OL Stadium, Lyon (58,883)
KICK-OFF: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
Australia have won 16 of their last 20 matches against Wales, including three of the four Rugby World Cup meetings in that period - one of which was the 2011 bronze final.
September 2019. Tokyo Stadium. Wales’ only pool-stage Rugby World Cup win over Australia to date was an epic of its kind. It finished 29-25, after Wales survived a fierce second-half comeback that saw an 18-point lead cut to just one with 12 minutes left on the clock – before Rhys Patchell settled matters with a 73rd-minute penalty.
It was Wales’ first win in the tournament against the southern hemisphere’s 'big three' in 32 years.
KEY TALKING POINT
Australia’s form continues to dominate the talk in Pool C. Over the past 12 months, the Wallabies have won just three times in 15 matches. Those victories came against Georgia, at Stade de France on the second day of the tournament; as well as Scotland, last October – and Wales, last November.
Ben Donaldson v Dan Biggar. Donaldson switches from fullback to fly-half for the crucial match of Australia’s Rugby World Cup, as Eddie Jones drops Carter Gordon to the bench. Donaldson started at 10 for the first time against Wales in Cardiff last November, while Biggar was injured. The Wallabies won 39-34 after trailing 34-13 when Donaldson was subbed off by then coach Dave Rennie in the 53rd minute.
Wales conceded just five tries and 56 points in six matches (17 of those points, and two of those tries came in the 17-16 loss to South Africa in their opening pool game) as they played their way to the bronze final at RWC 2011, where they conceded two more tries and 21 points, as they lost 21-18 – against Australia.
Wayne Barnes (England). The long-serving official in the middle refereed his first test – between Fiji and Samoa – in 2006. His first Rugby World Cup outing was the Pool C match between New Zealand and Italy at the 2007 tournament, right here in France.
WALES Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis; Will Rowlands, Adam Beard; Aaron Wainwright, Jac Morgan (captain), Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Corey Domachowski, Henry Thomas, Dafydd Jenkins, Taine Basham, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Rio Dyer
AUSTRALIA Andrew Kellaway; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Ben Donaldson, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, David Porecki (captain), James Slipper, Nick Frost, Richard Arnold, Robert Leota, Tom Hooper, Rob Valetini
Replacements: Matt Faessler, Blake Schoupp, Pone Fa’amausili, Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Carter Gordon, Suli Vunivalu