Rugby
AAP 8d

Michael Cheika prepared for tough Welsh challenge

Rugby

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is bracing for the challenge of a Wales team desperate to end their appalling record against his side.

The Wallabies have not tasted defeat to the men from the principality since 2008 and have lost just one of the last 17 meetings between the two nations.

Warren Gatland will give home debuts to three players, headlined by five-eighth Owen Williams who will play in the centres with Dan Biggar at second receiver and Gareth Davies replacing the injured Rhys Webb at halfback.

There has been claims in the local media that Gatland's men lack the mental strength to beat the Wallabies.

Cheika, however, insists the Welsh pose a huge threat on home soil with a team boasting six players who featured in the drawn British and Irish Lions Test series against the All Blacks.

"It's a first game of a series for Wales in the November, they didn't play with a full team in June because of the Lions series," Cheika said.

"He's a fine player, Williams. Has a good kicking game, good footwork and he'll threaten us particularly with his running.

"It may be different to how they set up before but it is going to be a challenge for us with Biggar and another playmaker in there plus the run threat of Jonathan Davies.

"He is an excellent player and got man of the series on the Lions tour and just about says it all."

Cheika has rewarded Samu Kerevi for his strong showing against Japan by retaining him in the side ahead of the fit-again Karmichael Hunt

Kerevi scored two of Australia's nine tries against Japan and formed a strong centre partnership with Tevita Kuridrani, who crossed for a hat-trick in Yokohama.

"I thought he played really good on the weekend to be honest," Cheika said."If Karmichael didn't get injured that week he probably would have started that game.

"But he got an opportunity and he deserves another game.

"He is a very good player, Samu. He hasn't had it all his own way this year and I'm eager to see him fight back and try and get a spot in the team."

Halfback Will Genia has been passed fit to play following a calf injury with five-eighth Bernard Foley recovered from illness.

Reece Hodge, who ably deputised for Foley against the Cherry Blossoms, moves back to the wing with Kurtley Beale named at fullback.

Cheika has selected an unchanged forward pack with winger Henry Speight dropping to the bench along with halfback Nick Phipps and believes the return of Foley and Genia is a huge boost for a side limited in experience of northern hemisphere rugby.

"If you look at our team, we haven't got a lot of experience in the northern hemisphere," he said.

"Even guys like (Adam) Coleman doesn't have a lot of experience. He played here (in Cardiff) last year, but then got injured."

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