Wales Autumn International

Australia @ Millennium Stadium - November 8th
Fiji @ Millennium Stadium - November 15th
New Zealand @ Millennium Stadium - November 22nd
South Africa @ Millennium Stadium - November 29th

Wales are back in rugby union action in November for the Dove Men Series 2014. The Red Dragons will welcome some of the very best in rugby over the month with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa along with Fiji visiting the Millennium Stadium.

Wales will be hoping to end what has been a disappointing year on a positive note with strong showings against the world's top nations. Warren Gatland's side slumped at the Six Nations while a summer tour of South Africa yielded just one win. With the Rugby World Cup under a year away, the autumn internationals will provide a marker of the team's progress.

Here is our guide to Wales' autumn internationals.

The year so far

Wales started 2014 looking to claim their third successive Six Nations title. They were in buoyant mood with the likes of George North, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton playing a key part in the British and Irish Lions' successful 2013 tour of Australia.

Halfpenny finished the series as top points scorer with 49, kicking 21 points in a crushing 41-16 win over the hosts, picking up the man of the match trophy in the process. Confidence in the Welsh camp was high heading into the Six Nations but they wilted under the pressure.

An opening day 23-15 victory over a spirited Italy side continued the positive mood but this was swiftly dented with a 26-3 demolition job by Ireland in Dublin. Despite a morale boosting victory over the French, Wales lost 29-18 to England at Twickenham. It placed the Welsh in third as Ireland claimed their first Six Nations since 2009.

Wales' form did not get much better on the summer tour of South Africa. Despite an opening victory against Eastern Province Kings, when it came to playing the former world champions they were in for a much harder test. Losing their first test 38-16, Wales proved a much tougher outfit in the second match.

The Red Dragons took a commanding lead in Nelspruit thanks to tries from Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert but the Springboks fought back and snatched a dramatic win when Willie Le Roux went over the line and a penalty try was converted.

Wales will be out for revenge when the two meet again on November 29th.

Opponent head to head

For the autumn internationals, Wales could not have picked any harder opposition. The Welsh have a terrible record against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and even lost their last, and second ever meeting, with Fiji. While Wales will be all too familiar with the Springboks following the summer tour, history is not on their side.

Wales have only ever beaten South Africa once in their history - in 1999. It is not much better reading when placed against the Wallabies and the All Blacks. Wales last beat Australia in 2005, a 24-22 win when the southern hemisphere side visited Cardiff but before that you would have to go way back to 1987 when Wales won by a single point in the third place play off of the Rugby World Cup.

The last Welsh victory over New Zealand pre-dates the colour television with the Red Dragons not recording a win against the All Blacks since 1953 at the National Stadium in Cardiff. Since then it has utter domination from New Zealand with the All Blacks winning the last meeting 33-10 at the Millennium Stadium.

To make it worse for Wales, New Zealand have only lost once in almost two years.

Squad options

Wales will once again be looking to the likes of Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny to drive them forward against some of the world's best. Halfpenny's kicking will be the focus of attention and could be pivotal if Wales are going to pick up any victories during the autumn internationals.

The Red Dragons will have to do without scrum-half Gareth Davies who has been ruled out for 12 weeks with a knee injury. It is a major blow for Wales and Davies, who ended last season as the Scarlets' top try scorer.

Rugby World Cup ambitions

It is just under a year until the 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off in England. The Welsh will be looking to go one better than in 2011 when they were knocked out at the semi-finals by France. Wales would eventually finish fourth, losing to Australia 21-18 in the third place play-off match.

They have been handed a tough group up against hosts England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay. They kick off against the South Americans in Cardiff and they will need to press home advantage if they are to progress through to set up a potential knock out game against South Africa, Samoa or Scotland.

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