Pivac and Rennie feel the heat as Wales and Australia try to put out fires | Autumn Nations Series

tThe international window has closed, and most people have moved on. How Wales and Australia should feel they can join them. But, no, they have to wake themselves up again – in the case of Australia for a fifth weekend in a row – to please their legions of fans and corporate suits.

Both may feel the bad relations of their circle, especially in their turbulent and vulnerable state – and a glance at their walking wounded and positions on the ranking ladder will provide enough reason for them to feel that way. Wales are coming off the fresh humiliation of defeat at home to Georgia, while Australia are no longer enthused by a first defeat by Italy in Florence the weekend before that.

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Needless to say, both sides have made changes, although Australia is the side that lost honorably to Ireland last weekend. Their three-point defeat in Dublin was the heaviest of this round, as every other match in it was decided by a single point. The first was their only victory, against Scotland at Murrayfield, a week before that international window opened, but they have since lost to France with honour, to Italy, with scorn, and to Ireland.

Wales got a win over Argentina in their credits column this fall, albeit hardly inspiring, but defeats to New Zealand (comprehensive) and Georgia (humiliating) put them firmly in the red, not just for November but for the whole calendar year, as they’ve won three from 11, They were defeated by Italy alone.

Inevitably, there are changes for both teams. Every coach is under pressure, every New Zealander. Wayne Bivac and Dave Rainey didn’t just spray their faraway magic on these two islands, sure if results were to be achieved. Both will demand a easing of work in progress.

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It may be difficult to argue the case for Bivac, given that he boasts six players with 626 caps between them, 200 more than Australia’s starting line-up. Alun Wayne Jones, Lee Halfpenny and Tulube Valetao are among six changes to the team that lost to Georgia, making 345 of those appearances between them.

Wayne Pivac presides over the training
Wayne Bivac finds himself under intense scrutiny. Photo: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock

On the work-in-progress front, Bivac has handed his international debut to 20-year-old Ospreys Joe Hawkins, who will line up alongside fellow club Gareth Anscombe, another returning player to the squad. Rio Dier, the winger who scored on his debut against the All Blacks this month, is the sixth change. He is 22 years old and wins his second cap. Given the game situation out the window, several players used by Bivac this fall have returned to their English clubs, including Louis Reis Zammit and Nick Tompkins.

Meanwhile, Rene’s touring party has been reduced to 25 fit players. Nick White is back on the field in Dublin under controversial circumstances, having suffered an apparent brain injury, but he is sitting that way, alongside Michael Hooper and Dave Borecki, who also suffer from the same ailment. Taniela Topo, the mighty bull of Tonga, was knocked down in the same match by his Achilles. He will be out for seven months.

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Question and Answer

Wales teams vs Australia


Wells Half brown. Cuthbert, North; Hawkins, Dyer; Anscombe, T Williams; Thomas, Owens, Lewis, Bird, AW Jones, Morgan, Tiburek (captain), Faleetaw

alternatives Elias, R. Jones, Francis, Carter, MacLeod, Hardy, Priestland, Adams

Australia I have seen. Pattaya, Ikitao, Hodge, and Nwakanitwas; Donaldson, Gordon; Slipper (Capet), Vainga, Alalatoa, Frost, Neville, Holloway, McCreight, Gleeson

alternatives Lonergan, Robertson, Talakai, Hannigan, Samu, McDermott, Lolisio, Campbell.

Thank you for your feedback.

There are Test first starts on Ben Donaldson at fly half and a wrecking ball at No. 8, Langie Gleason. They are among seven changes to the Wallabies. Jake Gordon replaces White to meet fellow Waratahs at full-back, while Folau Vaenga replaces Boriki and Fraser McWright steps in for Hooper. Gleeson is a replacement for another injured Rob Valettini, while other absentees are replaced by Bryce Hodge at centre-half and Jordan Petya, who came on in the fourth minute last weekend, on the wing. Tom Wright becomes linebacker.

It’s hard to know which team will gain the most – or rather, what will lose the most. The losers would equal their record for most defeats in a calendar year. Australia is eighth and Wales ninth in the world rankings. If Italy continues their recent form, Wales will soon be in danger of becoming the lowest-ranked team in the Six Nations. Otherwise, every other one-class country is ahead of both. Well, Wales and Australia might be dying to creak that window shut.

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