Australia vs Wales
Wales against Australia on today should be the match that decides who finishes top of Pool D.
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Date: Sun, 29 September
Kick-off: 08:45 BST
2019 Rugby World Cup match:
Fly-half Dan Biggar says Wales know their path to World Cup glory could rest on Sunday’s crunch Pool D game against Australia.
An easier route in the knock-out stage is likely to rest on the outcome in Tokyo.
England are favourites to win Pool C ahead of France or Argentina with Wales in line to face one of those sides.
“The bottom line is we’re fully aware what topping our group means,” said Biggar.
“We are getting into the real depth of the tournament and Sunday’s result will have a big impact on the pool.”
England have started with wins over United States and Tonga, but are yet to play France and Argentina in their group.
Coach Eddie Jones will be in the Tokyo Stadium crowd scouting England’s potential quarter-final opponents.
“I don’t think England will have it all their own way, they have the two toughest fixtures to finish, but they are looking strong, aren’t they? ” said Biggar.
“Gats [Warren Gatland] said in a meeting on Friday we’ll probably be playing France or England in the quarter-finals, so it’s one of those where France on their day are as good as anyone in world rugby.
“For us we’re not focusing on that, we are looking to get the job done on Sunday which would put us in a strong position to get out of the group.
“You get the sense that the winner on Sunday puts themselves in one heck of a strong position and the loser probably has a bit more pressure on them the week after.”
The two sides have played one World Cup game each so far, with Wales beating Georgia 43-14 and the Wallabies overcoming Fiji 39-21.
Now the group’s top seeds go head-to-head in Tokyo, renewing a rivalry that has produced some nail-bitingly close encounters in recent years.
Wales triumphed in the latest meeting, winning 9-6 in Cardiff last November.
Before then, however, Warren Gatland’s side had suffered 13 successive defeats against Australia, a sequence of results stretching back to 2008.
Gatland and his players say last year’s victory has renewed their confidence for this fixture, while Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika believes Wales are the favourites.
Wales are unchanged from their win over Georgia, with Alun Wyn Jones set to win a record 130th cap, surpassing the previous mark set by Gethin Jenkins.
Wales were ranked number one in the world as recently as August, while their Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year coincided with a record 14-match winning run.
Australia also came into this World Cup in fine form, having beaten New Zealand 47-26 – a record margin – in the Rugby Championship last month.
Their preparations for this match have been disrupted by the suspension of wing Reece Hodge because of a dangerous tackle but, with the vastly experienced Adam Ashley-Cooper taking his place, the Wallabies remain a potent threat.
There are three other changes to the team which beat Fiji, with the accomplished and seasoned half-back pairing of Will Genia and Bernard Foley recalled, while Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Kurtley Beale at full-back.
There is one alteration on the Wales bench as centre Owen Watkin comes in for full-back Leigh Halfpenny to offer cover for Hadleigh Parkes, who starts despite breaking a bone in his hand against Georgia.
Wales team: L Williams; North, Jonathan Davies, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; Wyn Jones, Owens, Francis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Tipuric, Navidi.
Replacements in team: Smith, Dee, Lewis, Shingler, Moriarty, T Williams, Patchell, Watkin.
Australia team: Haylett-Petty; Ashley-Cooper, O’Connor, Kerevi, Koroibete; Foley, Genia; Sio, Latu, Alaalatoa, Rodda, Arnold, Pocock, Hooper (capt), Naisarani.
Replacements in team: Uelese, Slipper, Kepu, Coleman, Salakaia-Loto, White, To’omua, Beale.
Officials: Referee, Romain Poite (France); Assistant referees, Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England); TMO Ben Skeen (New Zealand).
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