Classic awaits as Wales look to blunt Australia's attack

Ahead of the showdown between two of the tournament heavyweights, we look at where the Pool D match may be won or lost.

TOKYO, 27 Sep - Wales face Australia on Sunday in arguably the clash of the weekend. The winners of the Pool D game in Tokyo will be virtually guaranteed a slot in the quarter-finals.

Wales and Australia will be analysing each other's previous game, assessing their respective strengths. For Wales it will be Australia's gainline attack, for Australia how Wales deal with loose kicking. 

The penultimate Wales try against Georgia was scored after an uncontested kick.

Kicks should fall into two categories: long kicks where you hope to gain territory and kicks where you want to regather the ball. This kick is not long enough to gain territory but too long to be regathered.

When Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny looks up, he sees a disjointed Georgia chase. He heads to the far side of the field. Georgia overcommit to that side, sending five defenders to cover three attackers. Wales come back to the near side and Justin Tipuric and George North have a two-on-one with Georgia prop Levan Chilachava.

The final Wales try comes from another loose kick. When scrum-half Tomos Williams receives the kick he is not faced with a wall of defenders, but with mismatched defenders he can attack. His run back is exceptional but possible because of the space he is given by the kick.

Australia cannot afford to hand possession to Wales with loose and poorly directed kicks. They need to send the ball deep into the stands so Wales cannot take a quick throw-in, or make sure it is contested.

Teams suffer when they suddenly hand possession to opponents. It makes defending much harder as they do not have the time to set up. Australia will be aware of the threat that Wales pose when they receive loose kicks, but being aware and being able to stop doing it are two different things.

The focus for Wales is their defence close to the line. Most teams find that the final few metres are the hardest to gain but Australia did this with ease.

Instead of building up and crashing over the line after numerous phases, they skipped all that and spread the ball wide early for the try. Australia can also just maul the ball over the line, as they showed with the two tries from hooker Tolu Latu (pictured).

Australia consistently made the correct decision about when to go wide. In the video they have a two-man overlap. They could just keep going through the phases but they risk turning the ball over. Instead they saw the overlap and ended the attack immediately.

The same thing happened in the second half. Australia could choose the conservative route and build phases but they decide to spread the ball wide early.

This will cause problems for Wales. They are happy to stand on their line and drive back teams who want to pick and go, but less used to defending against teams who want to swing the ball across the pitch.

The challenge for Wales is how they decide to set up their defence. Do they creep in and keep their fringe solid, or do they weaken their defence closer to the breakdown and solidify the wider defence? Whichever they choose, Australia will be happy to do the opposite.

Australia versus Wales is a huge game for the tournament but also interesting analytically. Wales are happiest when they have a very tight defence and a relatively unadventurous attack. Australia are happy conceding four tries if they can score five. That clash of styles has the potential to create a classic.

RNS sl/sdg/pp/co