Brains, the official ale of the WRU, are offering you the chance to win a pair of tickets to the crunch game of the autumn international series: Wales v Australia on Sat 1 Dec. For your chance to win, simply answer the following question.
Q: When and where was the last time Wales beat Australia?
Send your answer, contact number and Twitter username (if applicable) to email@example.com by Tues 27 Nov.
CROUCH, TOUCH ENGAGE
Dave Brayley scrums down and looks ahead to this month’s exciting autumn international lineup.
WHILST no international games played on our shores will ever rival the cut, thrust and excitement of the Six Nations in springtime, the autumn international series does come close. In just four weeks, from Sat 10 Nov-Sat 1 Dec, Wales will entertain Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
In the not too distant past, we would only see teams of such diversity once every three or four years when it was their turn to tour. Not now. In the last 10 seasons, the All Blacks have brought their brand of total rugby to the Millennium Stadium on seven occasions – the same number as Australia. However, if you know your fly halves from your flankers, it won’t be a surprise to learn that Wales have lost all of those contests against New Zealand, whilst winning just two against their antipodean cousins.
Fortunately, before taking on these southern hemisphere giants, Wales “warm up” against Argentina and Samoa. Some warm up! Argentina have won respect for the way they have acquitted themselves against the big three (the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies) in the revamped Rugby Championship that replaced the Tri Nations, and they will be looking to bag the Welsh scalp after failing to beat any of the big three.
Samoa will provide tough and feisty opposition on Fri 16 Nov, but they should be overcome. All eyes will then focus on Sat 24 Nov when that pragmatic policeman and former Welsh coach Steve Hansen brings his all conquering All Blacks to town. Can Wales win? Of course they can. Will Wales win? No. New Zealand have won their last 16 matches and you can expect that number to continue to be added to at the Millennium. In Kieran Read they possess the best number eight in world rugby, and in Richie McCaw, one of the best flankers of all time. Sprinkle in the likes of Mealamu, Woodcock and Whitelock and you have a pretty fearsome pack. A truism of rugby is that the forwards win you matches; the backs just tell you by how much. Sadly, expect the All Black backs to run riot in Cardiff. Some things never really change.
THE GAME TO WATCH
In October 2011, Wales lined up against Australia in the third place play-off in the Rugby World Cup. This was to be the game where Wales gatecrashed the top table of world rugby. We lost. No matter, we could get revenge in the autumn international that followed in December. We lost. Not to worry, a three-match series Down Under in the summer would provide ample opportunity to avenge those two defeats. We lost them all. To borrow a Wild West adage, in terms of being taken seriously by the southern hemisphere, this Welsh side is drinking in the last chance saloon. We will not beat the All Blacks, nobody does, but we simply have to beat Australia. No other result will do. I view it quite simply: if we don’t beat Australia now, we never will.
THE PLAYER TO WATCH
There’s a saying in sport that has often rung true: “a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”. The point being that generally you need to have size on your side to compete and prosper in professional sport. There are exceptions of course: Messi at Barcelona is a giant who stands at five-feet seven inches, but there aren’t many, especially in the size obsessed world of international rugby. But Wales have one in Leigh Halfpenny. Halfpenny is the classic squad player who has become an indispensible team player. Often picked to cover the back three and an occasional kicker, he has become owner of the number 15 shirt and developed into one of the deadliest kickers in world rugby. Halfpenny has quickly become my favourite rugby player, and I have a feeling that this autumn he might just take his game to a whole new level.