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Wales win in Melbourne needed to salvage series

The Wales huddle after their defeat during the men's International Test match between Australia Wallabies and Wales at Allianz Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Sydney

Men’s international friendly: Australia v Wales

Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Date: Saturday, 13 July Kick off: 10:45 BST

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, the BBC Sport website and app, plus live text commentary, followed by report and reaction on the BBC Sport website and app.

It is only a seven-day turnaround as Wales travel to Melbourne from Sydney to try and level the two-Test series.

Warren Gatland squad's have left the spectacular backdrop of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House to travel south to a city associated with Aussie Rules rather than rugby union.

The 25-16 defeat means Wales have dropped to their lowest place in World Rugby's ranking since they were created in 2003, slipping to 11th and outside the top 10 for the first time.

It was not a classic encounter in Sydney as Wales failed to overcome a new-look Wallabies side that had only had five training sessions together under the tutelage of new coach Joe Schmidt.

Social media reaction has been contrasting, ranging from views that it is time for Gatland to go, to others recognising this inexperienced Wales side need to be given time under the New Zealander.

Here are five takeaways from the first Test at the Allianz Stadium.

Results business

Wales head coach Warren Gatland watches during the first Test against Australia in Sydney
Wales head coach Warren Gatland won three Grand Slams during his stint in charge [Getty Images]

When Steve Hansen suffered a then eighth record defeat as Wales head coach during his time in charge in 2003, he proclaimed he could not give two hoots about his own legacy.

This Wales side have not won a Test match since they defeated World Cup pool opponents Georgia nine months ago in Nantes.

They have lost eight successive internationals, something they have not suffered since the barren period between 2012 and 2013 when Gatland and Rob Howley took turns as head coach.

Since Gatland returned to replace Wayne Pivac in December 2022, he has won six out of 20 games with 14 defeats.

Compare this to Pivac paying the price for losing nine out of his last 12 matches, which included home defeats against Italy and Georgia.

In March, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) indicated that despite a first Six Nations bottom place finish for 21 years, they will stick by Gatland.

The New Zealander himself says he hopes the Welsh public can see what he is trying to do by building a new side for the next World Cup in 2027.

There are extenuating circumstances because Wales have lost a lot of players in the last year. Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Ken Owens, George North, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny have all retired.

Taulupe Faletau, Tomos Williams, Adam Beard and Elliot Dee were injured for this tour, while Josh Adams, Ryan Elias and Will Rowlands were rested for the summer.

So it is a new-look inexperienced and unproven Wales side that Gatland now has at his disposal as he tries to bring the best out of them.

Gatland will know a victory in Melbourne is essential to avoid a ninth consecutive defeat and help ease pressure on him and his side.

Losing experience

Wales' Liam Williams recieves treatment during the first Test against Australia
Liam Williams played his 91st international for Wales on Saturday [Getty Images]

Wales only had 306 caps in the starting side on Saturday with full-back Liam Williams, number eight Aaron Wainwright and prop Gareth Thomas boasting more than half of those appearances.

They were also the only players who started the record 40-6 victory against Wallabies in the 2023 World Cup game in Lyon last September.

The issue now is there are injury concerns surrounding the trio. Thomas limped off just after half-time with a leg injury, following a chastening evening which included a first-half yellow card and a scrummaging examination from Taniela Tupou.

Williams sat down on the field with his head in his hands in the second half before being forced off with a knee injury, while Wainwright limped off in the final minute.

Lose those players and you will be looking at one of Wales' most inexperienced sides ever fielded for the second Test in Melbourne.

Lack of attack

Wales' top try scorer in 2024 are penalty tries, having secured another one on Saturday.

A stark statistic, as Australia outscored Wales by three tries to one with efforts from Tupou, wing Filipo Daugunu and the brilliant match-defining effort by full-back Tom Wright as he rounded Nick Tompkins with ease.

Wales again looked most dangerous with the rolling maul and felt aggrieved by the disallowed second-half try for James Botham after the officials deemed it was obstruction.

Trying to find evidence of an effective attacking Wales structure in recent months has been challenging.

Gatland pointed to opportunities they created against Australia with Wainwright looking like he would set up a second-half try for Ellis Bevan, only to be denied by a brilliant tap tackle by Wallabies scrum-half Jake Gordon.

The issue is that because few chances are being fashioned, Wales have to finish the opportunities they create. The 28 turnovers they conceded during the match also proved an Achilles heel.

Cardiff centre Ben Thomas looked assured on his first start at fly-half, while replacement 10 Sam Costelow looked dangerous when he came off the bench.

Whether these two players can join together from the outset to produce a more creative product remains to be seen with Wales also still to prize out the best of Mason Grady

Set-piece woes

iam Wright of Australia steals the line out during the men's International Test match against  Wales in Sydney
Liam Wright was captaining Australia for the first time as he led his side to victory against Wales [Getty Images]

Wales again lacked firm set-piece foundations with a struggling scrum and a malfunctioning lineout.

Wales had a rookie tight-head prop Archie Griffin starting his first professional match packing down against James Slipper, whose 135th international saw him become the most capped prop in the history of the game ahead of Gethin Jenkins.

On the other side of the scrum, Tupou gave Thomas a torrid evening with Wales forced to give away penalties under the pressure.

The line-out was also creaking with a success rate of under 70% as Australia managed to pick off Wales throws, while a not-straight effort from captain Dewi Lake, a decision afterwards hotly contested by Wales, laid the platform for the Wallabies' second try.

Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys will be hoping to tighten up these areas next weekend to have any hopes of levelling the series.

Reasons to be hopeful

Christ Tshiunza of Wales wins a lineout during the first Test match against Australia in Sydney
Christ Tshiunza missed the 2024 Six Nations through injury [Getty Images]

Number eight Wainwright was outstanding on his 50th cap as he continually tried to hammer through the Wallabies defence.

The Dragons star dominated Wales' ball-carrying efforts and Gatland will be desperately hoping he is fit next weekend.

Wales' typical dogged defence was again in evidence as prop Griffin led the way with a remarkable 26 tackles, with Exeter locks Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins not far behind.

Tshiunza had arguably his most effective game in a Welsh jersey as he added turnovers to his game.

And Wales are not downbeat heading to the capital of Victoria.

Players have insisted a buzz remains within the camp, while defiant captain Dewi Lake did not shirk away from stating how important an overdue victory is.

In the last Test match of one of the longest seasons, Wales will want - and need - to finish on a high.