Watson looks to Wales swansong

Veteran half-back Ian Watson is hoping Australia field their strongest team for their final Gillette Four Nations group game against Wales as he prepares for his international swansong.

The 35-year-old Swinton scrum-half won a record-extending 30th cap in Wales’ 36-0 defeat by New Zealand at Wembley but has confirmed that, if selected, next Sunday’s clash with the Kangaroos in Wrexham will be his last.

“It will be my last game for Wales for definite,” he said. “I’ve spoken about it with my wife over this season and we said it would be my last time with Wales as a player.

“I’ve had some great times. I’ve always looked forward to the end of the season playing for Wales.

“I will have all my family at Wrexham for the last game and, being against Australia, I don’t think it could be any bigger occasion apart from Wembley here. Hopefully I’ll be selected in the team.”

Watson, who made his international debut alongside current coach Iestyn Harris against the United States in 1995, was at the heart of a courageous second-half showing that prevented the Kiwis running away with their clash at the national stadium.

Trailing 26-0 at the break, the Welsh held their own for most of the second half to achieve Harris’ initial aim of improving on their opening 42-4 defeat by England.

“The second half was a lot better,” Watson said. “We started getting to our structures a lot more and started competing physically a bit more with them.

“They got off to a great start in the first half and were winning the floor and playing a high-paced game. But we manned up in the second half and stopped their go-forward a bit better.

“There were a load of positives for us. I’m proud of the efforts and how we stuck together because we were down two subs in the second half.

“We opened them up a few times and had chances to score, it’s just when we opened the door, they closed it back on us.”

Wales will be without 20-year-old Cronulla second rower Tyson Frizzel against Australia after he sustained an arm injury against the Kiwis but hope to have utility player Peter Lupton available after sitting out the two games so far with a hamstring problem.

The Kangaroos have lost full-back Billy Slater with a broken collarbone and, having seen his team qualify for the Elland Road final, coach Tim Sheens may be tempted to give a run-out to the six members of his 24-man squad still to get a game in the tournament.

Watson is hoping Sheens will opt to field his final team, even though that will add to the size of Wales’ task.

“It’s obviously a massive game,” he said. “Everybody wants to challenge themselves against the best players in the world.

“I know New Zealand are the world champions but everyone regards Australia as the best team with the best players so it’s obviously a challenge we’re looking forward to.

“Hopefully they won’t rest players. We’d rather play against a full-strength team and see if we can compete against them and have that experience and knowledge of learning from the game.”