The embattled Wallabies’ showdown with Wales this weekend at Millenium Stadium – their first Test under new coach Michael Cheika – is vital in the context of Australia’s build-up to the 2015 World Cup.
Wales are also searching for momentum after relinquishing the Six Nations crown they won in 2012 and ’13 earlier this year, and they will be looking at a win over a potentially vulnerable Australian side as a stepping stone to a watershed World Cup performance.
Crucially, these sides face off during the tournament’s group stage at Twickenham – a match that is likely to decide who goes through to the quarters from a tough pool that also includes England and Fiji.
For Throwback Thursday, we’re looking back at the five best Australia-Wales Tests of the last 30 years.
5. 2013 – Wallabies’ end-of-year tour: Australia 30 d. Wales 26
The Wallabies were desperately seeking some positive results at the end of a dismal year that included a home series loss to the British Lions and a poor Rugby Championship campaign. After going down to England, Australia regrouped to defeat Italy, Ireland and Scotland, before pipping Wales in a classic in the last match of an arduous five-week Northern Hemisphere tour. Wales scored inside two minutes and led 13-3 early, but some Quade Cooper magic put the Wallabies back on track. Australia led 30-16 with 25 minutes to go, but only just held off a spirited comeback from the hosts.
4. 2008 – Wallabies’ end-of-year tour: Wales 21 d. Australia 18
Wins over Australia had been scarce for Wales, toppling the Wallabies just once in 14 Tests since the 1987 World Cup heading into their clash in Cardiff at the end of 2008. But first-half tries to brilliant winger Shane Williams and fullback Lee Byrne (from a superb Williams short ball) set up a halftime lead for the home side, and Stephen Jones’ ice-cool goalkicking after the break propelled Wales to a momentous win.
3. 2012 – Welsh tour of Australia: Australia 25 d. Wales 23
The Wallabies swept Wales 3-0 at home in 2012 – but the total margin of all three Tests was just 11 points! The tourists suffered their most heartbreaking defeat in the second Test in Melbourne. After clinging to a 23-22 lead for the final 13 minutes, Wales conceded a penalty after the 80-minute mark. Wallabies reserve Mike Harris, making just his second Test appearance, stepped up to land the match-winner from the sideline.
2. 1987 – World Cup 4th-place playoff: Wales 22 d. Australia 21
Wales took a 49-6 beating from the All Blacks while the Wallabies were pipped by France in the inaugural RWC semi-finals. But the deflated sides staged a classic playoff for third place. Spurred on by a packed house at Rotorua, Wales snatched a 22-21 victory via Paul Thorburn’s towering sideline conversion of Adrian Hadley’s late try.
1.1984 – Wallabies Grand Slam tour: Australia 28 d. Wales 9
Alan Jones’ Wallabies continued their march to a historic Grand Slam with a comprehensive victory over Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. The brilliant Mark Ella, playing in what would be his second-last Test, scored a memorable intercept try to ice the 21-point win, after Michael Lynagh, Tom Lawton and Steve Tunyman also crossed for the rampant Wallabies.