The Wallabies remain wary of an injury-ravaged Wales outfit they’ve held an international stranglehold over for a quarter of a century, with “master coach” Warren Gatland and sharpshooter Dan Biggar firmly on their radar.
Australia have dominated Wales on the world stage, losing just twice since 1987, and currently hold a 10-game winning streak over the world No.2 which dates back to 2008.
In order to break that cycle at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday AEDT), Wales will need to overcome an enormous injury toll – which resulted in them losing Johnathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb before the World Cup even started.
Centre Scott Williams (knee) and winger Hallom Amos (shoulder) then went down in the brave win over England to leave them devastated.
Saturday’s game has taken on added importance following Australia’s win over England – with both teams already through to the quarter-finals but top spot in the `pool of death’, which brings the added benefit of the easier side of the draw, up for grabs.
“They’ve had a difficult run with injuries and that can sometimes galvanise your team,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said.
“That’s where the coach and the smarts of the coach comes in as well.
“What we’re not going to do is start changing the way we look at things because maybe the pool situation has changed.
“We’ve still got stacks of improvement to make, there are still areas in our game I think we can improve significantly in, some of the work we’re doing off the ball as well.”
Cheika describes Gatland, who has masterminded the rise of Wales over in 2007, as the “master coach”.
He believe the New Zealand-born mentor deserves much of the credit for Wales’ resurgence in the past decade – a period which includes a Six Nations grand slam in 2008 and a World Cup semi-final appearance in 2011.
While the Welsh backline has been decimated, it still includes the star figures of playmaker Dan Biggar and powerful winger/centre George North.
Biggar’s radar-like goalkicking formed the bedrock of Wales’ stunning upset of England and looms as the biggest danger for the Wallabies this weekend.
Cheika stressed discipline was more important than ever against a sharp-shooter capable of slotting penalties from within his own half.
Meanwhile, North needs no introduction to the Wallabies.
From the moment he picked up and carried Israel Folau – who was attempting to make a tackle on the hard-running back – while playing for the British and Irish Lions, he was burnt into the memories of Australian rugby fans.
The extraordinary footage went viral and North remains a potent threat in attack.
“He’s obviously a great ball runner, you can’t let him get a wind up because he’ll be all over you,” Cheika said.