It’s reached that time of year when the autumn delight of a month of rugby excites a nation. The autumn series when Wales pit themselves against the world’s best, along with a slightly less favoured team. This year it begins with a bang against the Springboks, a South African team that produced a thrilling final game in the Rugby Championship against eventual winners New Zealand. And the Springboks are an ever improving team.
Wales follow this up with games against Argentina, Tonga and perhaps the most eagerly anticipated game against Australia. Four games on four consecutive weekends is what all Wales rugby fans have been looking forward to since the historic Lions tour returned from down under victorious. Another chance to pit themselves against an Australian team that they have come agonisingly close to beating on multiple occasions in recent years will no doubt spur the Welsh team on.
With Warren Gatland back at the helm the Welsh squad will have an extra confidence about them, a confidence that they can go one better than the last attempt and remain in the lead against the Wallabies when the final whistle is blown. It is perhaps a shame that Wales don’t get to pit themselves against the mighty All Blacks as well this year, but games against 2 of the world’s best teams will have to suffice.
The squad has suffered an early blow however with both Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert ruled out through injury, with the Lions duo being replaced by Blues centre Corey Allen and Ospreys winger Eli Walker. There is however a return for utility back James Hook who has impressed in his stint with French Top 14 side Perpignan.
The usual faces are in the squad, once again captained by Lions skipper Sam Warburton and a skilful blend of talent, youth and experience should serve Wales well, with many tried and tested combinations available to coach Gatland and his team of selectors. The power game that Wales have favoured so strongly of late will face a stern test in the first match against South Africa and if they can produce a performance that runs the Boks close in the final result, the confidence will flow for the following games. A game against Argentina, who notoriously don’t travel well, is next up and will no doubt be a battle for the forwards. Slip in a Friday night game against Tonga and a chance to put things into place, for example moves and player combinations, and it all dovetails nicely into the showpiece and the culmination of a long international year, the showdown with the Wallabies.
Wales will no doubt be looking to put a W on the board in that game, getting their own back on a very fortunate Australian team that scraped a victory on their last visit to the Millennium Stadium. The Aussie team has been going through something of a transition period and their fans will no doubt hope they can extend their winning record against an ever improving Welsh side.
All in all it promises to be a very exciting Autumn and thousands of Welsh fans will be hoping their heroes can mange 3 wins out of 4, a turnaround that would undoubtedly be marked a success.