When sporting fans think Australia and a five-Test series against a British outfit, it’s usually cricket and the Ashes in particular that spring to mind. But not this time.
The next installment of cricket’s most-famous rivalry doesn’t take place until 2013 but a rugby clash of similar significance is just about to begin.
When Wales take on the Wallabies in Auckland on Friday it will be the first of five matches between the two teams over the next eight months. And while Wales will take part in an RBS 6 Nations campaign in the middle of those fixtures, the Australians won’t be lining up against anyone else in the meantime.
The Lions’ next opponents begin their 2012 Tri Nations campaign in July and only Warren Gatland’s men feature in their concrete plans up until that point.
This week’s third place play off at the World Cup kicks things off on the biggest stage of all, with Wales looking to bounce back from their heartbreaking semi-final defeat to France and Australia keen to forget all about their loss to the All Blacks.
Next on the agenda is a December clash in Cardiff – a fixture already being heavily promoted by the Welsh Rugby Union who see it as a homecoming for their World Cup heroes. That particular encounter could be given added significance if Shane Williams is persuaded to play one final game for his country on home soil, with Wales looking for a repeat of their 21-18 success over the Wallabies back in November 2008.
A further three Tests then follow in Australia next June, with the venues as yet unannounced.
Wales have only beaten the Wallabies twice in the southern hemisphere – their third place play off victory at the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and a 19-16 success in Sydney 18 years earlier – so to do so in four games in less than a year will be a huge task.
Australia have won the last two matches between the sides, with both those victories coming in Cardiff, while the two most recent games Down Under resulted in two more wins for the Wallabies.
Wales against Australia results since the 2005 Lions tour
Wales 16 Australia 25 – Cardiff, November 2010
Wales 12 Australia 33 – Cardiff, November 2009
Wales 21 Australia 18 – Cardiff, November 2008
Wales 20 Australia 32 – Cardiff, September 2007, WC
Australia 29 Wales 23 – Sydney, May 2007
Australia 31 Wales 0 – Brisbane, June 2007
Wales 29 Australia 29 – Cardiff, November 2006
Wales 24 Australia 22 – Cardiff, November 2005