Australia’s defeat by Fiji has blown Pool C wide open, transforming tomorrow’s clash between Wales and the Wallabies into a must-win game for Eddie Jones’s side.
The former England boss generated controversy with his team announcement on Friday by dropping young fly-half Carter Gordon having previously stated that anyone who knows anything about rugby knows that 10s “need time in the seat”.
In a typically entertaining press conference, Jones issued multiple apologies for Australia’s run of six losses in his seven matches in charge before promising his side would beat Wales. Failure to do so would spell Australia’s first-ever pool stage elimination from the World Cup.
Wales are four points clear at the top of the pool and will qualify for the quarter-finals if they win their remaining two games, against Australia and Georgia. They could afford to draw or lose one of the games and still progress.
The problems for Wales will mount up if Australia beat them with a bonus point and Warren Gatland’s side do not pick up a bonus point themselves (for scoring four tries or losing by less than seven points). If that happens, then Wales will be reliant on results going their way in the final round of pool games.
When is it?
This is the last game of the third weekend of the World Cup. Kick-off is at 8pm UK time (9pm local time) tomorrow night. That’s Sunday, September 24.
How to watch on TV
ITV have the broadcast rights to every match at the World Cup. In the UK, this one is on ITV1. You can read our full guide to the tournament’s TV coverage, plus a ranking of the best pundits and commentators working in the sport.
Where is it?
Debuting in January 2016, the OL Stadium in Lyon has a capacity of 58,883 and is the home of Olympique Lyonnais football team. Since opening it has hosted a series of international events, including rugby.
The OL Stadium had been open for only four months when the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals were played at the new stadium. In November 2017, New Zealand defeated France in front of 58,607 fans there. At the end of that season, the OL Stadium was chosen as the venue for the Top 14 semi-finals.
This stadium also hosted the men’s Euro 2016 football tournament and the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2019, but the city has always had a rich rugby pedigree. Wales and Australia are scheduled to line up in this year’s first World Cup matchin Lyon.
Who is the referee?
Wayne Barnes, an Englishman, is in charge.
How do I get tickets?
To see if tickets are still available, visit the tournament’s official ticketing website.
What is the team news?
Co-captain Dewi Lake misses out on a place in Wales’ match day squad as head coach Warren Gatland names the same team that defeated Fiji 12 days ago.
Ryan Elias starts at hooker instead with Elliot Dee providing cover on the bench. Jac Morgan, who has been in fine form, captains the side, while lock Adam Beard is due to win his 50th cap.
There is also a spot among the replacements for former England prop Henry Thomas, who is on course to make his Wales World Cup debut.
Morgan, wing Louis Rees-Zammit and No 8 Taulupe Faletau are the only three players named who will have started all of Wales’ Pool C games so far.
Flanker Tommy Reffell, a late withdrawal due to a tight calf muscle before Wales faced Portugal last weekend, also misses out, with Taine Basham providing back-row bench cover.
Wales XV: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; G Thomas, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Wainwright, Morgan (capt), Faletau.
Replacements: Dee, Domachowski, H Thomas, D Jenkins, Basham, T Williams, Anscombe, Dyer.
Fly-half Carter Gordon and openside flanker Fraser McReight drop to the bench as Eddie Jones makes three changes to his starting team.
Tate McDermott returns at scrum-half after missing the loss to Fiji with concussion and will link up with Ben Donaldson, who moves from full-back to form a new half-back combination.
Andrew Kellaway, one of the more experienced backs in a young squad, slots in at full-back to make his World Cup debut, while Jones reacts to Australia losing the battle of the breakdown against Fiji by re-jigging his back row, moving Tom Hooper from blindside to openside and handing Rob Leota the No 6 shirt.
Hooker Dave Porecki lines up in an unchanged front five and again takes over captaincy duties from the injured Will Skelton.
Australia XV: Kellaway; Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Donaldson, McDermott; Bell, Porecki (capt), Slipper, Frost, Arnold, Leota, T Hooper, Valetini.
Replacements: Faessler, Schoupp, Fa’amausili, Philip, McReight, White, Gordon, Vunivalu.
What are they saying?
Wales assistant coach Jonathan Thomas has described Australia as “a wounded animal” ahead of tomorrow’s match that could see the Wallabies make unwanted history.
Eddie Jones’s team are teetering on the edge of a World Cup pool stage exit for the first time. If Wales beat them in Lyon, then their quarter-final hopes will be over.
“We respect Australia as a rugby nation. They are a wounded animal, they can be dangerous,” said Thomas.
Wales will start as favourites having collected a maximum 10 points from their first two Pool C games.
Centre George North said: “I’ve been to quite a few World Cups now, and to get early results is good but it is a massive game that we have to go and win on Sunday. It [qualifying on Sunday] would be a little weight off the shoulders. The boys are really chomping at the bit.”
Eddie Jones, meanwhile, has accepted that his job will be on the line if the Wallabies lose to Wales and crash out of the World Cup.
“I can’t apologise any more guys. I’m really sorry we haven’t had better results,” Jones told reporters after naming his team on Friday.
“But we’re trying to create a team that creates dreams for Australian Rugby. We’re not trying to be a mediocre team, right? We want to be a really good team and to be a really good team there’s some pain and there’s some failure involved.
“At the end of the World Cup, there’s going to be a review,” he added. “And given the results we’ve had, then maybe Australian Rugby doesn’t want to keep me. That’s the reality of the job I live in.”
What is the recent history between the teams?
When it comes to World Cup action, Wales and Australia are familiar rivals, having played each other seven times.
And while Australia lead that particular series 4-3, Wales have won three of the last four in all competitions.
What are their pool matches and results?
play Australia on Sunday 24 September
play Georgia on Saturday 7 October
play Wales on Sunday 24 September
play Portugal on Sunday 1 October
What are the best odds?
Australia to win: 11/10
Wales to win: 1/1
Odds correct as of September 23