On the surface it might look like there’s not a lot for the Wallabies to play for in this game – the Grand Slam is long gone and there’s not exactly a winning record to protect. I suspect there may also be more than a few players, coaches and administrators fantasizing about the end of season sun back home.
But those are dangerous thoughts to have before a game that will dictate the whole complexion of this tour. A win, and this is a reasonably successful trip, with just one loss (let’s just forget against who…). A loss, and this Grand Sham will morph into a clusterfuck delux, on top of which Robbie and his Wallabies will create the worst yearly winning record at 36%, since 1989 (33%).
So what’s it to be?
Well if recent history and form are anything to go by, the Wallabies will create half a dozen scoring opportunities and maybe take one. Gits will kick around half his chances. Wales, on the other hand, have a number of seasoned campaigners and certified finishers in their rank; exemplified none better than by a certain Shane Williams. For me he is the embodiment of a true rugby winger – the pace, the step, the nose for space. A thrill to watch. I expect him to make like Sivivatu against the Wallabies and prove a handful all night.
The market has the Wallabies by slight margin; $1.96 to $2.18. Perhaps what it’s seen is that Robbie is at least able to field his strongest team on tour, with Palu, Robinson and Ioane proving fit. For me though, this game represents a final step in mental strength that this Wallaby team has repeatedly fallen short of all year.
Gagger says: Wales by 1
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
14. Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds)
13. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
12. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
10. Matt Giteau (Brumbies)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies, captain)
5. Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs)
4. James Horwill (Queensland Reds)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on reserves:
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs)
17. Matt Dunning (Western Force)
18. Mark Chisholm (Brumbies)
19. George Smith (Brumbies)
20. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
21. James O’Connor (Western Force)
22. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
Wales: James Hook, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Shane Williams, Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel, Ryan Jones (capt), Martyn Williams, Andy Powell, Luke Charteris, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul James, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Huw Bennett, Duncan Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Dan Lydiate, Martin Roberts, Andrew Bishop, Tom James.