AUSTRALIA V WALES (Third Test, Saturday, KO 6.05 BST)
WALES caretaker coach Rob Howley has resisted the temptation to wield the axe and has named an unchang-ed side for Saturday’s third Test against Australia.
A number of players were sweating on their places after last weekend’s late 25-23 loss in Melbourne ensured the Wallabies wrapped up the series with one to play.
There were calls in some quarters for hooker Matthew Rees, lock Bradley Davies, fly-half Rhys Priestland and centre Ashley Beck to drop out of the starting XV in Sydney, while there was also strong support for in-form Justin Tipuric to come in on the openside for skipper Sam Warburton.
However, Howley has opted not to tinker with his line-up and has given his charges a shot at redemption after wasting a golden opportunity for a first win against the Wallabies on Australian shores since 1969.
“We know what we have to do to beat Australia, but there is a difference between knowing how to win and achieving that aim,” said Howley.
“This Wales team was within around 30 seconds of beating the Wallabies on their home patch for the first time in 43 years.
“The challenge now is to go one better than that and make sure we are ahead on the scoreboard, not just when the hooter goes but when the game finishes this weekend.
“The players can take some credit for the way they played for the large part of the match last Saturday but that will be scant consolation if we don’t come home with a win in this series.
“We have risen to our highest position (fourth) in the IRB world rankings because of our performances so far this season, which can have positive repercussions for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but now we want to stay there and that means coming away with spoils on Saturday," added Howley.
There is just one change to the matchday squad with hooker Ken Owens replacing Richard Hibbard on the bench.
That decision has echoes of the way that Alix Popham was ruthlessly dropped by Warren Gatland because of a lack of on-field discipline in the 2007 Six Nations win against England at Twickenham, a game that proved to be the number eight’s last cap.
Hibbard was penalised twice in the closing stages to help the Wallabies claim their dramatic win.
First he charged into a ruck from the side deep in Australia territory and then he dragged down the maul from the resulting lineout, allowing Mike Harris to slot over the winning penalty.
15 Leigh Halfpenny
14 Alex Cuthbert
13 Jonathan Davies
12 Ashley Beck
11 George North
10 Rhys Priestland
9 Mike Phillips
1 Gethin Jenkins
2 Matthew Rees
3 Adam Jones
4 Bradley Davies
5 Alun Wyn Jones
6 Dan Lydiate
7 Sam Warburton (captain)
8 Ryan Jones
Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Scott Williams