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Alex Spink: Are Wales haunted by a ghost or their nightmare run against Australia?

09 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Are Wales haunted by a ghost or their nightmare run against Australia?

Warren Gatland's side haven't beaten the Wallabies since 2008, but playing at Twickenham might help, says the Mirror rugby correspondent

England are not the only nation haunted by this World Cup following elimination 16 days into their own tournament.

But is the real reason the Wales team are having sleepless nights the presence of a ghost in their Surrey hotel, as they claim, or the thought of another nightmare encounter with Australia?

At stake on Saturday is top spot in Pool A and a quarter-final against either Scotland or Japan, both of whom Warren Gatland’s side would expect to beat in their, er, sleep.

But lose and a last-eight clash against two-time winners South Africa, back up to speed after their humiliation by Japan in Brighton, is an altogether different proposition.

Wales got so carried away cheering the demise of England that many overlooked the fact that the manner of Australia’s victory will greatly empower them for their return to Twickenham this weekend.

The Wallabies will now know they have a tournament-winning chance.

And given that they were already approaching the Wales game with the confidence born of 10 straight wins in the fixture, that makes them pretty dangerous.

You have to go back to 2008 for the last time Wales beat Australia.

The nine subsequent meetings have been nip and tuck – no more than a nine-point margin in any of them – but the result has always been the same.

“The boys have spoken about how much heartache we’ve had against Australia so we have to go in with huge motivation,” said James Hook.

“Everyone is beatable, it’s just about getting it right on the day.”

Maybe playing at Twickenham rather than the Millennium will help Wales.

It is, after all, the place they came back from the dead to beat England a fortnight ago – and they have never lost there against Australia.

Gatland’s squad is also pretty much at full strength, at least in terms of the players not already ruled out of the tournament, while the Wallabies have key man Michael Hooper banned and there are injury concerns over strike runners Israel Folau and Rob Horne.

Can Australia hit the heights of last weekend when Bernard Foley, previously unsung and not completely convincing as an international goalkicker, played the game of his life?

The fly-half scored two tries and kicked everything in a 28-point display which England, their belief mortally wounded from their late capitulation to Wales, were powerless to resist.

No such issues with Welsh self-confidence. They have proved to themselves that they can survive without their two injured stars Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb.

Dan Biggar, as a nigh-on perfect goalkicker, and Gareth Davies at scrum-half, have stepped up in those areas to the extent that the absentees have barely been missed.

All that could change of course.

As the games get bigger, and the stakes higher, the ability of Halfpenny in particular to deliver under the greatest pressure, is likely to be felt.

He was player of the series, remember, against Australia when the British and Irish Lions won so magnificently in 2013.

But right now Biggar is in the zone and Wales, who still believe they should have made the final in 2011, fear no-one.

It makes for a decent scrap at the graveyard of England’s dreams.

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