SIX NATIONS CHAMPIONS Wales will look to salvage something out of their heartbreak tour of Australia with victory over the Wallabies in the third Test in Sydney tomorrow.
The Welsh have had a week to reflect on their devastating last-kick defeat to the Australians in Melbourne last Saturday, which lost them the series and prolonged 43 years of misery without a win Down Under.
The Wallabies have had the run on Wales in recent matches, winning their last six encounters, and are without a loss to the Welsh in their last 10 internationals in Australia dating back to 1969 when the tourists won 19-16 in Sydney.
The Welsh looked set to break their Australian curse last weekend only to concede a penalty when they brought down a driving Wallaby maul, presenting Mike Harris with a shot at goal to clinch a 25-23 win after the siren.
Wales were gutted by the last-gasp loss and it has taken considerable psychological effort to bounce back for another crack at the Wallabies.
“We need to salvage something out of this trip. We have got another chance. We want to be a good team and we want to push on,” flanker Dan Lydiate said.
“We need at least one win down here. If we can get a victory to finish the season off, it will put us in good stead leading into the autumn internationals.”
The Melbourne loss still weighs heavily on Wales’s most capped player Gethin Jenkins.
“We should have seen the game out in Melbourne. With only two minutes on the clock we should have done something a bit different, but when it’s as tight as that it’s the responsibility of the 22 to nail it,” said loosehead prop Jenkins.
“It probably wasn’t the best of ideas to kick the ball away, but I thought we had a good chase and pinned them down 30 metres from their line. It was just unfortunate that we gave away two penalties which cost us the game.”
Wales’ caretaker coach Rob Howley said in naming an unchanged side yesterday: “We have risen to our highest position (fourth) in the IRB World rankings because of our performances so far this season, which can have positive repercussions for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but now we want to stay there and that means coming away with the spoils on Saturday.”
Kurtley Beale will make his Wallabies comeback in this weekend’s final Test and will be making his first appearance since coming off with a hamstring injury in last October’s World Cup bronze medal playoff match against Wales in Auckland.
But Beale’s return at fullback comes despite the brilliant attacking player having to defend an assault charge. Beale missed the first three Tests of the season with a shoulder injury and during that time got into trouble over an alleged altercation with security guards at a Brisbane pub.
Coach Robbie Deans said Beale had proved at training that he was ready for a recall.
“It has been frustrating for Kurtley and he’s obviously had some off-field challenges to deal with as well,” Deans said.
“But it was important for all concerned that he had full confidence in his shoulder before we looked at re-introducing him to the Test arena.”
Beale said he was confident his shoulder would hold up, but refused to take questions on the alleged assault.
“It’s obviously been a while now… I’m just raring to go,” he said.
Adam Ashley-Cooper takes Cooper Vuna’s place on the wing while NSW Waratahs giant Sitaleki Timani has been recalled to the starting second-row, with Rob Simmons moving to the bench.
Deans said the changes were designed to strengthen his team.
“Both games in the series to date have been very close, there’s no reason to suggest that Saturday afternoon will be any different,” Deans said.
“If anything, they will be even more dangerous because the circumstance will unshackle them,” he said. ”While they can no longer win the series, they can still achieve something only one other Welsh team has ever achieved by winning in Australia.”