Wales v Australia: Wallabies in crisis a dangerous foe for Gatland
|Rugby Union Autumn International: Wales v Australia|
|Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 8 November, 2014. Kick-off: 14:30 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, 5 live sports extra, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV.|
The Wallabies, so we've been led to believe, are a team in crisis.
They lost to Argentina in the Rugby Championship, were already dealing with off-field controversy triggered by the text-message exploits of versatile back Kurtley Beale; they've lost a coach and hastily installed another ahead of a gruelling Northern Hemisphere tour.
Add to that reports of the Australian Rugby Union's finances being in a parlous state and each one of them stands as a big juicy reason why Wales might finally overcome their Australian hoodoo.
But the Aussie psyche is programmed to cope with crisis better than most. If they do find themselves in a trough, they usually scramble out of it pretty sharpish.
|Wales' series of defeats against Australia:|
|November 2013: Wales 26-30 Australia - report|
|November 2012: Wales 12-14 Australia - report|
|23 June, 2012: Australia 20-19 Wales - report|
|16 June 16, 2012: Australia 25-23 Wales - report|
|9 June, 2012: Australia 27-19 Wales - report|
|December 2011: Wales 18-24 Australia - report|
|October 2011: Wales 18-21 Australia - report|
|November 2010: Wales 16-25 Australia - report|
|November 2009: Wales 12-33 Australia - report|
They're not ones for endless hand-wringing and introspection. They're winners. And it's why Wales will not be preparing for a team wracked with uncertainty, cowed by off-field events or exhausted after a draining season.
They'll be preparing for one which gave the All Blacks an almighty 28-29 scare, and will be battle-hardened, and galvanised by the arrival of a new coach.
In Michael Cheika, they have a world-class operator with a track record in turning good teams into trophy-winning teams. Think Leinster. Think the Waratahs.
He also doesn't suffer fools. He'll probably feel as though he'll need to instil some discipline. Whether this leads to a Waratahs bias early on, who knows?
Rumours of internal discord under Ewen McKenzie pointed towards a rift between Queensland Reds players (McKenzie's old team) and the rest. Unsurprisingly, Cheika's dismissed any crisis talk, insisting he's not been brought in to perform a "rescue job".
One of his predecessors, Eddie Jones, says Cheika has taken on "one of the hardest jobs in the world".
The new coach admitted himself that he didn't know who Australia's autumn opponents were before he accepted the job. He does now.
|WALES V AUSTRALIA HEAD TO HEAD|
After an entertaining romp against the Barbarians on the weekend, they now face Wales, France, Ireland and England. So Wales will be the first real test.
For the Baa-baas game - an enthralling 40-36 Wallabies win - Cheika reunited the half-back partnership that showed such devilry in unpicking the Welsh defence last autumn.
Back then, Wales - still basking in the afterglow of a Lions series victory in which they provided the, ahem, Lion's share of players - thought they'd deliver their first victory over Australia since 2008. But Will Genia and Quade Cooper delivered a masterclass and led their side to a 30-26 victory. Both will start Saturday's game on the replacements bench.
It was the Wallabies' ninth win in a row against Wales, and it really is time to end that dismal run.
Yes, those victories have usually been by tiny margins — an average of six points over the nine games — but to paraphrase Sam Warburton, you don't get unlucky 10 times in a row.
Australia are in Wales' World Cup group next year, along with hosts England. All three teams are in the world's top eight, but all three won't make the last eight of the game's global showpiece.
Warren Gatland has intimated that the autumn series and the Six Nations are just a means to an end - the end being the World Cup.
And that if Wales lose to Australia next week, but beat them in the World Cup, it won't matter a jot.
But Test rugby is as psychological as it is physical, and beating them when it doesn't matter will make it a whole lot easier to do so when it does.