Time for Welsh to end Wallabies’ drought?
BY THE time the Wallabies run onto Millenium Stadium in Cardiff to take on Wales in the first Test of the Spring Tour tomorrow morning, a clock ticking on a Welsh website will have reached 2170 days.
That's how long it has been since Wales beat Australia - six long years since the 21-18 victory on November 29, 2008.
Despite the drought, little has separated the teams in that period. In the last four Tests against Wales, the Wallabies have won by a combined total of 12 points.
With less than 11 months until the 2015 World Cup kicks off, the match in Cardiff takes on extra significance considering the teams are drawn to meet in the Group stages at Twickenham on October 10.
While new Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is no doubt still coming to grips with how to turn his squad into a potential World Cup-winning combination, Welsh mentor Warren Gatland has been leaving no stone unturned in an effort to bridge the gap between his side and New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia.
Gatland has put his players through the most brutal preparation in memory, described by loosehead prop Paul James as, "the toughest Welsh camp we've been in".
The daily dawn-to-dusk sessions have included cycling in altitude chambers and three daily sessions in cryotherapy chambers where temperatures are reduced to as low as -110 Celsius, believed to assist injury recovery, relieve chronic pain, boost sporting performance and limit muscle damage.
James described himself as "lying in my room like a zombie" after the intense training sessions off the past two weeks, adding several players had been physically sick.
"They've pushed us to the limit ... hopefully that will help us going into the game," he said. "We haven't beat them (Australia) for a long time so it's a big thing.
"We've come close the last few times and the start is massive for us. That's why we've been put through our paces last week and this week."
Cheika has made no unneccesary changes to the line-up that suffered a heart-breaking 29-28 loss to the All Blacks in Brisbane last month, the match that marked the end of Ewen McKenzie's time in charge.
Back-rower Sean McMahon will make his debut, replacing Scott Fardy (knee), and No.8 Ben McCalman comes in for Scott Higginbotham (hamstring).
"Everyone has worked really hard on preparing themselves in the best possible way, and we're all excited about the opportunity to represent Australia and give our absolute best," Cheika said.
Whether that will be enough to reset the clock to zero, we will find out tomorrow morning.
WALLABIES: J Slipper, S Fainga'a, S Kepu, S Carter, R Simmons, S McMahon, M Hooper (c), B McCalman, N Phipps, B Foley, J Tomane, C Leali'ifano, T Kuridrani, A Ashley-Cooper, I Folau. Reserves: J Hanson, T Faulkner, B Alexander, J Horwill, W Skelton, M Hodgson, W Genia, Q Cooper, R Horne (one to be omitted).
APN SPORTS BUREAU with INM
WALES V AUSTRALIA
Cardiff, 12.30am (AEST)