WALES HAVE GONE for experience in a bid to overhaul the Wallabies and level their three-match series in the second Melbourne Test on Saturday.
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions lost the Brisbane opener 27-19 last weekend and must win in Melbourne to take the series to a decider in Sydney on June 23.
Caretaker coach Rob Howley has added more than 180 caps worth of Test experience to beef up his forward pack among four changes to the starting side that lost three tries to one in Brisbane.
Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees replaces Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones takes over from Luke Charteris at lock and Ryan Jones comes in for injured number eight Toby Faletau (broken hand).
Neath centre Ashley Beck, who gained his first cap in a substitute appearance last week, replaces Scott Williams, who was chosen on the bench.
Wales showed enough in their fightback from 6-20 down to trail 19-20 in the first Test to indicate they will prove hard to beat with a dry ball under the closed stadium roof on Saturday.
“After the first Test Australia are obviously in the ascendency, but the tour is not over by any means and we have all to play for on Saturday,” Howley said Thursday.
“We are bringing three very experienced players into the pack, all three made an impact from the bench during the first Test which has justified their selection in the starting line-up this weekend.
“Having played two matches now in Australia we have acclimatised and are ready for another huge challenge this Saturday.”
Wales are searching for their first win in Australia for 43 years and if they win in Melbourne it will be only their second victory in 11 internationals Down Under.
The Welsh will also be looking to considerably tighten their defences after conceding three tries against the Wallabies, as many as they did in their entire five-match Grand Slam triumph this year.
Wales will give special attention to scrum-half Will Genia, who ran the show for the Wallabies in Brisbane in a man-of-the-match performance.
Coach Robbie Deans has named an unchanged Australian line-up in a bid to clinch the series, although prop Sekope Kepu is in doubt with a strained forearm tendon.
Deans is expecting Wales to come back strong this weekend and is under no illusions about the Wallabies’ dominant opening half in Brisbane which rocked the Welsh.
“The Welsh will have seen a lot of opportunity in last weekend’s Test,” Deans said.
“They showed during their Six Nations campaign that they are resilient — twice winning games in the final moments.
“That trait was apparent again in a 12-minute period in Brisbane when they closed from 6-20 to 19-20, to put themselves in a position to win the game after we had made the better start.”
The Wallabies also have a tendency of not putting two good games together and Deans will have to guard against a drop off in intensity from his team this weekend.
Wales pinpointed Australia’s physical, first-half battering for setting up their platform for victory last week.
“It was a new experience for a lot of us and it was the quickest game I’ve played in that first half,” skipper Sam Warburton said. “It was a tough lesson but we’ll learn from it and improve on it.
“There are a lot of positives. We know we can come out and play the rugby we played in the second half and we have the fitness levels to do it, but ultimately it was the start that killed us really and gave us too much work to do.”
The Wallabies have lost only twice at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium in 11 internationals over 12 years — against the All Blacks (28-49) in 2010 and England (14-25) in 2003 — but have never played Wales at the venue.
Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper; Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (capt), Scott Higginbotham; Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Nic White, Anthony Fainga’a, Mike Harris.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Ashley Beck, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones; Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones; Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Ryan Jones.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Paul James, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Scott Williams.