Wales reload for equally desperate depleted Wallabies

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The betting pool on the next coach of Wales is up and running.

Scott Robertson of Super Rugby's Crusaders leads at odds of 2-1, followed by ex-Wales boss Warren Gatland at 5-1, La Rochelle's suspended Ronan O'Gara at 7-1, and current assistant Jonathan Humphreys at 8-1.

Wayne Pivac still being the coach when the Six Nations rolls around in February is hedged at 5-4.

The fallout from Wales' eighth and worst loss of the year last Saturday — a first ever to Georgia — is still unravelling.

“I can't get sidetracked by those sort of things. At the end of the day, it is the professional environment we are in,” Pivac says.

Beating a depleted Australia on Saturday in Cardiff should save Pivac. But even if Wales loses, Sam Warburton, the former Wales captain and an assistant to Pivac for a year, doubts anything will happen to the coach.

That's because the decision would have to come from a Wales Rugby Union board that has been equally slammed by Wales luminaries this week for its poor decision-making and dysfunctional relationship with the four regions.

Warburton says the governance is “stuck in the Stone Age.” He says eight of the 12 directors are community members out of their depth, and amateur clubs have too much influence. He wants “seismic change” from the top down but, again, doubts anything will change. Because the same call has been made for decades.

Wales shouldn't lose to Georgia but its no surprise. Wales has a long history of year-end dark days, including home losses to Romania in 1988, Canada in 1993 and Samoa in 2012.

November has always been about trying new things. Rio Dyer was given a debut against New Zealand, Louis Rees-Zammit was tried at fullback against Argentina, and the biggest changes were saved for Georgia. A front row that started with 145 caps was replaced by a front row with 30, and one-cap flyhalf Sam Costelow given another go.

Georgia took advantage, especially in the scrum. The great Alun Wyn Jones was rested to give a debut to lock Dafydd Jenkins, but there was still plenty of leadership on the field in the last quarter. However, captain Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, Adam Beard, George North or Leigh Halfpenny failed to provide any heart-thumping inspiration.

All are back in the starting lineup this weekend, including Jones.

“We don't want to keep fronting up because of a poor display or a poor result. You want to be building some momentum,” assistant coach Neil Jenkins says. "We've got no option on Saturday. We need to front up. Everyone.”

Pivac is contracted to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France, less than 10 months away. Wales hasn't changed coaches this close to a World Cup since Alan Davies was forced out two months before the 1995 World Cup. That outcome was Wales failing to get out of its pool.

Australia has had a rough year, too. Nine losses in 13 tests. But the Wallabies have mainly played well, often let down by their own indiscipline, and losing heart-breakers.

They have lost their last three tests by three points or less.

For Wales, the Wallabies have virtually picked the last men standing at the end of a grueling five-test tour of Europe.

Seven injuries came from their 13-10 loss to Ireland last weekend in Dublin, forcing home the likes of Michael Hooper, Nic White and Taniela Tupou. As well, Bernard Foley and Will Skelton returned to their clubs because this match is outside the international test window.

The Wallabies have been forced to give first starts to flyhalf Ben Donaldson and No. 8 Langi Gleeson. Rebels tighthead Sam Talakai could make his debut off the bench.

“We need wins,” back-rower Jed Holloway says. “We're so close, so that's what's driving the boys to finish off the tour the way we want to.”



Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric (captain), Jac Morgan, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, Gareth Thomas. Reserves: Ryan Elias, Rhodri Jones, Tomas Francis, Ben Carter, Josh Macleod, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland, Josh Adams.

Australia: Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Reece Hodge, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson, Jake Gordon; Langi Gleeson, Fraser McReight, Jed Holloway, Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper (captain). Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Tom Robertson, Sam Talakai, Ned Hanigan, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Noah Lolesio, Jock Campbell.


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