Wales have been made favourites to beat Australia on Saturday, even though it’s now a decade since they last did so. Robin Davey believes the facts back that up, but for history to change tack he wants some help from the elements.
Wales don’t get to beat Australia – or do they?
For on Saturday, they will surely never have a better chance of ending their dismal against their southern hemisphere rivals.
And they can aid their cause by keeping the Principality Stadium roof open for once.
Wales are nicely positioned three places higher in the world rankings – third against sixth – and have won their last six matches, compared with the Wallabies who have lost seven of their last 10 games this year.
Wales will also go in on the back of winning their opening game in the autumn series for the first time for 16 years after they beat Scotland, 21-10, last Saturday.
Wales’ six of the best has been bettered only five times in 137 years of Test rugby. Compare that with Australia’s record this year, and if they lose two more it will equal their worst ever year.
So, on paper, Wales must be favourites – as, indeed, they are with the bookies – to end a record which has seen Australia beat them 13 times in a row stretching back ten years.
On top of that, Wales now have the incentive of going for their first clean sweep of autumn victories this century.
But matches are not decided on paper, and despite their lean year Australia always feel they can beat Wales.
That’s probably down to the fact that so many times in the past Wales have been on the cusp of beating them, but the Wallabies always find that bit extra and have invariably pipped them at the post.
The architect of so many of those wins has been Kurtley Beale and he is back again to torment the country he seems to enjoy playing against most of all.
They base their confidence on a running game backed up by those two fast and furious flankers, skipper Mike Hooper and the redoubtable David Pocock.
Bernard Foley is another who enjoys playing against Wales as he pulls the strings and orchestrates so many of their bewildering back moves.
They employ so many decoy runners – some of it clearly illegal with obstruction often in evidence – and move the ball so slickly that Wales often end up chasing shadows.
And they are hindered rather than helped by the Principality Stadium roof being shut. It may ratchet up the atmosphere and stokes up Welsh fires, but it ensure conditions are firm with a dry ball which only serves to help Australia’s cause.
Given the current wet spell, Wales should keep the roof open and play on a slippery surface which will blunt the Aussie attack and force them to turn and chase back, making sure they find it more difficult to launch their blistering attacks.
Granted, it may spoil the game as a spectacle, but do Wales want to win or not?
Wales tend to always employ a kicking game with a bruising forward approach, anyway, which may suffice in the Six Nations but merely plays into Australia’s hands and their fast moving, running style of play.
It’s rather like a boxer soaking up lots of punishment and then striking ruthlessly to knock his opponent out.
There is nothing to suggest Wales won’t employ similar tactics this time, for it’s in their current make-up and has been almost since Warren Gatland took charge.
They don’t possess the deft handling skills or the sleight of hand to play it any other way.
Consequently, they should use the conditions to their advantage and that means keeping the roof open.
Combative former Australian lock Justin Harrison says the stadium is no longer a hostile place to play, calling it a carnival of people dressed up as daffodils.
In other words, there is no fear factor which is a pretty damning thing to say about one of the most iconic stadia in the world.
So, instead of constantly getting up from their seats to down yet more beer, Welsh fans would be better advised to bring about a bit more hostility and help make Australia feel unwelcome.
It’s the right tone to strike as Wales seek to achieve a morale-boosting win over one of next year’s World Cup pool opponents.
And I’ll say it again. Keep it wet, keep it wild, and keep the stadium roof open.