Michael Cheika: Australia coach wary of 'excellent' Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny joined Toulon from Cardiff Blues ahead of the 2014-15 campaign
Wales Under Armour Test series - Wales v Australia
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 5 November Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live BBC Wales television and radio commentary; also on the BBC Sport website and app, plus live text commentaries

Australia coach Michael Cheika expects the return of Leigh Halfpenny to offset the loss of Liam Williams.

Williams has lost his fitness fight and Toulon's Halfpenny starts at full back in his first appearance for Wales since September 2015.

"Leigh Halfpenny has a lot of experience, the lad who has missed out, Liam Williams, is a real attacking threat too," Cheika said.

"Halfpenny is an excellent attacker and a fine long-range goal kicker."

"He is a fine player with a great track record."

Wales are without several key players as they bid to avoid a 12th successive defeat to the Wallabies.

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny was injured playing against Italy in one of Wales' final warm-up matches before the 2015 World Cup

Welsh strength in depth

Second-row Jake Ball, is ruled out by a rib injury and centre Scott Williams, who had been struggling with an ankle injury, misses out.

Captain Sam Warburton and number eight Taulupe Faletau are also absent with injuries, while lock Alun Wyn Jones misses the game following the death of his father.

However, Cheika thinks Wales have the strength in depth to cope with such absences.

"Whatever 23 players Wales put out at the Principality Stadium, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with," he said.

"I think that the players they've got are pretty high quality. If [Sam] Warburton's not there, Justin Tipuric is in any other national team. He's a quality openside," said Cheika.

"Ross Moriarty is quite a dynamic player, he's quite a handful.

"Dan Lydiate's got form on the board. That battle between ours and theirs [back-rows] will be a very interesting part of the game."

David Pocock
David Pocock returns to the Australian side having played a star role for the Wallabies in their World Cup victory over Wales

Back row battle

Cheika believes the back-row battle could go a long way to deciding the outcome on Saturday.

Australia have named David Pocock at blindside flanker for the first time in his career for Saturday's Test against Wales in Cardiff.

Pocock, usually a number eight alongside Michael Hooper, takes over from the suspended Dean Mumm with Lopeti Timani completing the back row.

"There's no doubt Pocock is a straight swap for him [Mumm]. He won't give us the same aerial skills but I'm sure he'll give us other strengths," Cheika confirmed.