Australia has won each of its last eight Test matches versus Wales but bet on the golden run of the Wallabies against the Dragons coming to an end at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Wales players and staff are confident that the Dragons will register their first victory over Australia since their 21-18 win in Cardiff five years ago. Since then, Wales have lost eight consecutive games versus Australia, with the Dragons going down by fewer than 10 points seven times.
The confidence in the Wales camp emanates from the emphatic British and Irish Lions triumph over Australia in the Third Test at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium four months ago. One can draw parallels between that match and the upcoming game because no fewer than 10 of the touring team’s starting line-up were Welshmen, including five of the pack that destroyed the Wallabies. Wales is rightly chipper about its chance.
That of the three of the 10 Welshmen who started for the British and Irish Lions against Australia in Sydney are unavailable through injury is a blow. They are prop Adam Jones, inside centre Jamie Roberts and outside centre Jonathan Davies. Jones is the biggest loss as he is a tremendous scrummager and the scrum was one of the areas in which the British and Irish Lions dominated Australia. But there is sufficient talent in the Wales pack, particularly in its back row where British and Irish Lions replacement Justin Tipuric cannot get a starting jersey, to get on top of Australia in the all-important forward exchanges.
Wales hooker Richard Hibbard has come out in the media and said that the Dragons will batter Australia. Hibbard said that the British and Irish Lions smashed Australia for 60 minutes and, after that, the Wallabies were in no fit state to hold the Lions at bay any longer. The British and Irish Lions ran away from Australia in the final quarter of the Sydney showdown, scoring three tries through George North, Jonathan Sexton and Roberts to run out 41-16 winners. It would appear that Wales is going to adopt a very physical approach to its latest game versus Australia, one that it thinks will enable it to break its losing streak in the series. One only has to read the comments of Hibbard, Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards and other people associated with the Dragons to know how much the match means to them.
Bookmakers have installed Wales as the slight underdog so one can back the Dragons at odds of 2.10 with Ladbrokes. That feels like the right call because, if anything, the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia that was led by Wales coach Warren Gatland and featured so many Welshmen in key positions, suggests that the Dragons should be the favourites, albeit not by a large number of points.
Of the exotic betting options, the pick is a punt on the first scoring play to be a Wales penalty at odds of 2.62 with Bet365. Wales is going to take on Australia up front and the first scrum is going to be rugby union’s equivalent of a heavyweight title fight between two legendary boxers. England’s Wayne Barnes will referee Wales against Australia so one can expect a northern hemisphere interpretation of rugby union’s rules in Cardiff, which means that one can expect scrum penalties and Barnes to blow his whistle when he sees any funny business at the breakdown. Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked Australia to death during its series versus the British and Irish Lions – he booted 49 of the touring team’s 79 points, with some of his successful penalties travelling more than 50 metres in the air – so one can expect Dragons skipper Sam Warburton to point to the posts at every opportunity.
A penalty to either Wales or Australia is trading at odds of 1.36 with Ladbrokes but preference is for supporting the Dragons on their own to open the scoring with three points.