Wallabies look to bang out against ‘beaten’ Wales
Influential skipper Michael Hooper could be out, but Australia will look to end their autumn tour on a high against a ‘battered and bruised’ Wales missing 20 frontlines due to injury.
James Slipper will captain the Wallabies at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff in Hooper’s absence due to injury following two disappointing defeats against Scotland (15-13) and England (32-15).
Rob Valetini had no illusions about the extent of the loss Hooper had suffered in Australia’s attempt to avoid a first winless autumn tour in Europe since 1976.
“‘Hoops’ is a huge loss,” Brumbies No 8 said on Tuesday.
“He’s our captain, but he’s probably the biggest workhorse on our team.
“He never stops and this is something the team is going to miss.”
Valetini was one of Australia’s few notable performers in their loss to England – in which they allowed 18 penalties, crediting Hooper with helping him bring his Super Rugby form to the stage international.
“At the start of the year, in Tests, I probably couldn’t find my rhythm and I wasn’t doing it. I was probably a little nervous about starting and trying to reproduce a good season. Super, ”he said.
“But then I had a chat with Hoops and he said, ‘Don’t hold back, just let it all go and play your game.’
“It just happened and I started playing decent rugby.”
Valetini said the focus was now on a Wales side that got hammered by New Zealand (54-16), lost to South Africa (23-18) and did a job relentlessly on Fiji of 14 to finally come out unconvincing 38-23 winners.
“It’s a new week this week and we want to end the tour on a high note, so we’re going to prepare well and hopefully come out on a high on Saturday,” he said.
Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys has admitted the home side are entering their fourth game of the autumn Nations campaign, riddled with injuries to a group of front row players.
It was “unlikely,” said Humphreys, that Will Rowlands Lock and WillGriff John Pillar would be in good shape by the weekend.
First-choice player Tomas Francis is following return-to-play protocols for concussions, while winger Josh Adams (calf) and number 8 Aaron Wainwright (shoulder) are both watched.
“There is a team here that are battered and bruised after the toughest fall they have ever had,” the former hooker and Wales captain said on Tuesday.
“We’re just thinking about how we’re going to drain the tank to put on a show against Australia and win this game.”
Humphreys insisted the extended injured list had not been “frustrating”, insisting there had been “a lot of bright spots”.
“Obviously we would have liked more people to be available,” he said, with Wales aiming for a third straight victory over Australia.
“But from my perspective, it turned out to be very similar to last fall, where we learned a lot about people… [this campaign] has been great for us in finding people who can add to our depth.
“The tanks are low right now, but I know that next weekend we will be right and we will be ready for the fight, which will be the case against one of the best teams in the world. “
© Agence France Presse