Sport Union Why the Wales clash is must-win for Wallabies
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Why the Wales clash is must-win for Wallabies

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After smashing England at Twickenham and knocking them out, it’s back down to earth for the Wallabies.

The big games keep coming – this time a deciding group match against Wales at the same venue.

A win and Australia tops Group A, gifted a lower-ranked opponent in the quarter-finals – either Scotland or Japan. With all due respect to both nations, the Wallabies would be huge favourites in that one.

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And if they get past the quarter-final stage, then they will play one of Ireland, France or Argentina in the last four.

Crucially, that path to the showpiece would not involve world champions New Zealand – until the final.

But a loss to the Welsh and it’s second in Group A and a date with regular rivals South Africa in the quarters.

Beating the resurgent Springboks would not be easy – and if they do – the All Blacks would most likely lie in wait.

That’s why victory against Wales is crucial for Michael Cheika’s Wallabies.

They’ll have to do it without in-form flanker Michael Hooper, though, suspended for a hit on England’s Mike Brown.

Also missing for the green and gold is winger Rob Horne with injury, but in better news, Israel Folau has recovered to take his place at fullback.

Veteran Drew Mitchell will come in for Horne – and Dean Mumm replaces Rob Simmons at lock.

McMahon has big shoes to fill. Photo: Getty
McMahon has big shoes to fill. Photo: Getty

Successfully replacing vice-captain Hooper has been Cheika’s main selection dilemma this week.

He has decided to keep David Pocock at eight and bring in youngster Sean McMahon as the new openside – as opposed to Ben McCalman.

It’s a bold decision – a 21-year-old over a veteran who has played 43 Tests.

But McMahon was brilliant against Uruguay and will add aggression and ball-running to this side.

McCalman, also impressive against the South American nation, remains on the bench.

One area the Wallabies need to be wary in is the breakdown. It’ll be an almighty battle.

Wales has a quality back-row – much more dangerous than England’s – that includes the impressive Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

Australia’s injuries and suspension will help the Welsh, who have had a torrid time with injury before and during this World Cup.

But whether it will be enough to stop an 11-match losing streak to Australia remains to be seen. The winless run goes back seven years.

Wales won’t be short of motivation to finally break that hoodoo and nor will their experienced coach – Kiwi Warren Gatland.

And both sides have played some entertaining, open and very close matches in recent times.

The stakes are high – so expect this to be a tense, hard-fought encounter. And if the Wallabies can emerge victorious, a nation just might start to dream.

* The match airs at 2.45 Sunday morning on Fox Sports and Gem

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