Warren Gatland is a pitchside pundit on the telly, dressed in a suit concept I can best describe as “Essence of Weetabix”, being badgered by Sarra Elgan about whether he’s coming back to Wales.
This is all happening while Wayne Pivac wanders about in the background observing his team warming up.
A worrying time for both coaches is considered by Michael Aylwin…
Lots to fret over if you’re a fan of these teams; why not share your worries or hopes with me on th’email or on th’internet via Twitter @bloodandmud
Both coaches are stymied in selection this week as the fixture falls outside the agreed international window.
Wayne Pivac has handed a debut at inside centre to young Osprey (and rhythm guitarist from the current tour line-up of The Doobie Brothers), Joe Hawkins. He’s a talented lad, who plays much of his club rugby at out-half, so a definite second-playmaker option for Wales. Elsewhere in the backs Leigh Halfpenny returns to fullback.
In addition to those not available due to window rules, Australia have an injury list so long and comprehensive that Dave Rennie has been looking to add Bluey’s dad to the squad as cover. Multiple absences result in Ben Donaldson at ten, Reece Hodge playing 12 and pretty much all new back five in the pack.
Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. George North, 12. Joe Hawkins, 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Tomos Williams; 1. Gareth Thomas, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Dillon Lewis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Jac Morgan, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Rhodri Jones, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Ben Carter, 20. Josh Macleod, 21. Kieran Hardy, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Josh Adams
Australia: 15. Tom Wright, 14. Jordan Petaia, 13. Len Ikitau, 12. Reece Hodge, 11. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10. Ben Donaldson, 9. Jake Gordon; 1. James Slipper (c), 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Nick Frost, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Jed Holloway, 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Langi Gleeson
Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Tom Robertson, 18. Sam Talakai, 19. Ned Hanigan 20. Pete Samu, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Noah Lolesio, 23. Jock Campbell
Welcome to the Principality MalaiseDome is Cardiff, where Wales will take on Australia in the Underachievement Bowl.
What a year it’s been for these two, and not in a good way. An historic win in SA is among the highlights for Wales, but this was amongst losing 8 from 11 this year; and should Australia lose today that will be 10 in 14 – their worst 12 months for nearly 70 years.
Autumn Internationals are generally low stakes affairs in the grand scheme of things, and these extra rounds with missing players have even more of this stench. But, given the records above and both coaches sensing the impending danger of the Head of HR tapping on their shoulder to come to a meeting about their future, this one feels to have a bit more jeopardy than usual. A win here will calm the sack-chat a little bit and allow the victor to make noises about moving forward with positivity or some other word salad; but it will be better that the recrimination chat the loser will be engaged in.
Expect a close affair as matches between the two are often within a score. For a decade it was a late Australia score repeatedly splintering Welsh souls until the hoodoo was shaken more recently with some home victories. How both teams will want their best version of it today.