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Wallabies slam hopes hang on Wales streak

AAP logoAAP 3/11/2016 Joe Barton

The Wallabies will kick-start their bid for a drought-breaking grand slam on Saturday against a Wales team desperate to break the stranglehold placed upon them by the two-time world champions.

The visitors insist their 11-game winning streak over Wales - dating back to 2009 - will be of no significance when Saturday's kickoff rolls around (0130 Sunday AEDT).

But for a Welsh playing group that has admitted to countless sleepless nights following last year's famous World Cup defeat to the Wallabies, ending the streak - and killing Australia's grand slam prospects at the first hurdle - would provide some rare sweet relief.

The talismanic David Pocock, who returns to Australia's starting lineup in the unfamiliar No.6 jersey in his first start since suffering a broken hand against Argentina in September, insists no one senses psychological weakness in their opponents.

"No, certainly not. They're a team we have a huge amount of respect for," said Pocock.

And the truth is that this Wallabies team is - in terms of personnel and form - a long way removed from the one which produced a terrific run to reach last year's World Cup final.

Similarly, however, in recent years it hasn't mattered which Wallabies take the park against Wales - they've invariably walked off winners, albeit narrow winners on most occasions.

With an 11-game unbeaten streak dating back to 2009, the Wallabies would appear to hold a mental edge over their opening Spring Tour opponents - with interim Wales coach Rob Howley acknowledging the post-World Cup sleepless nights.

In that pool game, the Wallabies' defensive line refused to buckle even after being reduced to 13 following yellow cards to Will Genia and Dean Mumm - with Wales going tryless as Australia prevailed 15-6 to take top spot in the group.

"We've come up close a couple of times, and obviously lost in the last play of the game a few times," said veteran Wales captain Gethin Jenkins of the tight battles with Australia.

"They are a quality team. We know we've got to be on the top of our game to get a result against them, and Saturday will be no different.

"They are coming here on the back of what has been some improved performances in the Rugby Championship, and they will be looking at their past history against us to try and get that victory."

Pocock recalled several of the grandstand finishes produced in these fixtures - including the remarkable last-minute effort by Kurtley Beale which stole victory in 2012 to keep the streak alive.

Being able to dig deep in the final moments is something special, he argues, and something no one aside from the all-conquering All Blacks is capable of right now.

It explains Cheika's reluctance to add any fuel to talk about Australia's recent dominance over Wales.

"I don't know if anyone's thinking about 12 in a row when you haven't won as many games as we should've won this year," said Cheika, referring to Australia's three wins and seven losses to date in 2016.

"That hasn't even popped up on anyone's radar. All that stuff is exactly what it is - the past. It gives us nothing on Saturday and gives them nothing either."

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