11:54am Friday 29th November 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
ALEX Cuthbert’s return could make a crucial difference for Wales against Australia this weekend according to attack coach Rob Howley.
The 6ft 6in and 16st 9lb giant wing has returned from injury quicker than expected to face the Wallabies at the Millennium Stadium.
The 23-year-old hurt his ankle in the Cardiff Blues’ shock home Heineken Cup victory over champions Toulon last month.
The 2012 Grand Slam winner was expected to be ruled out of Wales’ entire autumn but was a surprise inclusion for this weekend’s showdown after missing this month’s defeat to South Africa and the subsequent triumphs over Argentina and Tonga.
His return is a welcome one for Wales as they look for their first win over the Wallabies after suffering eight successive defeats, the Gloucester-born Cuthbert set to win his 19th cap this weekend.
“It is great to have Alex back,” Howley said. “He is probably one of the players we have missed a lot in terms of firepower.”
Referring to Wales’ record 30-3 victory over England at the Millennium Stadium in March when Cuthbert scored two scoring tries when the hosts denied their opponents the Grand Slam as well as securing back-to-back Six Nations title, Howley said: “We spoke about the England game last season where wingers, who are winners, make a difference on the scoreboard.
“I am not sure many wingers in world rugby would have finished the two tries he scored that day.”
Howley added: “His work rate on and off the ball is phenomenal. It is a big ask for him to come in after not playing for a few weeks.
“But that is how much we feel we have missed Alex. Since he has been involved he is up with the best things in world rugby in terms of tries per game.
“There is still a rawness about him sometimes, but he is still learning the game.”
Cuthbert has enjoyed a meteoric rise after making his international debut as a late replacement in Shane Williams’ final cap two years ago when Wales lost 24-18 to the Wallabies in Cardiff.
He has since won two Six Nations tournaments and a Grand Slam before scoring a try in the British and Irish Lions’ 23-21 victory over Australia in June’s first Test.
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