Australia head coach Robbie Deans reckons Rob Howley’s 38-man Wales squad illustrates the major threat posed by the Six Nations champions this summer.
Howley, who will lead Wales Down Under in the absence of Warren Gatland, yesterday named his preliminary training squad for the June 2, clash with the Barbarians and the three-Test summer tour of Australia.
Wales have made no secret of their desire to clinch a first major scalp on the southern hemisphere turf since 1987, and Deans is under no illusions about the magnitude of the Wallabies' task.
"After winning the Six Nations so impressively, there’s no doubt that Wales see this tour as the chance to take the next step," said Deans.
"They were quite vocal about that at the end of the tournament, saying it was time they beat one of the major southern hemisphere nations.
"It was also clear, when we were in Cardiff last December for the James Bevan Trophy Test, that they believe that goal is within their reach.
"The core of the Welsh squad has been together for a long time, and they are used to being successful.
"You only have to look at the settled nature of the squad they have named, there are very few injuries. The players all want to be on this trip. That, in itself, is a statement of their intent."
The Wallabies edged to two slender victories over Wales last year, first the 21-18 Bronze Medal final triumph at the World Cup, then a 24-18 win in Shane Williams' international farewell at the Millennium Stadium.
Aside from Wales' 1987 World Cup victory over Australia, the Dragons have only claimed one Wallaby scalp in nine attempts – a 19-16 triumph in 1969.
Wales kick-off their tour in Brisbane on June 9, and also face ACT Brumbies in a midweek friendly. The Lions will also face Australia during next year's tour.