CARDIFF (Reuters) - Wales coach Warren Gatland is expecting a huge physical challenge from Australia in Cardiff on Saturday as his team bid to halt a run of 12 successive defeats by the Wallabies.
The last Welsh victory over the Australians was in 2008 and the touring side have named the imposing Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani in a powerful centre combination.
“Looking at the Australian team, I don’t think they’re going to be too worried about throwing the ball around,” Gatland told reporters on Thursday.
“I think they are going to be pretty direct. The game is about subtleties and you have to get across the gain-line first. We’ve done that in the past and played some great rugby. But what is going to win this game is the defence. If we don’t tackle, it doesn’t matter how many times we attack.”
The last time Wales won their opening match of the autumn series was against Romania in 2002.
“No we haven’t begun these series that well in the past,” Gatland said. “And we are playing a team that has had eight games together in the last couple of months and beat the All Blacks three weeks ago. We are going in cold.”
Gatland is confident Wales can challenge strongly to win the 2019 World Cup.
“It’s a process over the next two years. We should have made the final of World Cup in 2011 and we were five minutes from semi-finals in 2015,” he said.
“I believe this team is capable of winning the World Cup.”
Gatland, back in charge of Wales after a year out to lead the British and Irish Lions, is celebrating 10 years in the job.
“It’s been exciting and challenging, we’ve had ups and downs,” he said.
“We’ve played some great rugby, done exceptionally well in World Cups and won two grand slams and a title,” the New Zealander added.
“We’re always trying to improve and there have been challenges in relations between the Welsh Rugby Union and regions but that’s a lot more harmonious which makes a big difference.
“It’s been a roller coaster but an enjoyable one. You try to maintain consistency and learn and develop, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I love how passionate and opinionated the Welsh people are,” Gatland said.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson,; Editing by Ed Osmond