Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales are wary of facing a wounded Wallabies team after their loss to Scotland but if they can weather the early storm they sense that they could produce an upset and deliver their first victory in Australia since 1969.
The Wallabies are already missing towering skipper James Horwill and key playmakers James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper to injuries and go into Saturday's test only four days after a shocking 9-6 loss to Scotland in windy and wet conditions at Newcastle.
It was the first time since 1982 that the Australians have lost at home to the Scots, who were a distant last in the Six Nations.
But the Welsh are wary, with stand-in coach Rob Howley recalling the thrashing Wales took from Australia a week after the previous time Scotland upset the Wallabies - at Murrayfield in 2009.
"Australia will be disappointed after their defeat to Scotland, but that will make them all the more dangerous for us," Howley said.
"The Wallabies are still the second-highest placed side in the world rankings and we are playing them in their own back yard.
"We don't underestimate Australia. The last time they lost to Scotland we played them the week after and lost by 30 points. We're very mindful of their psyche."
Australia coach Robbie Deans has stuck with Berrick Barnes at flyhalf while making eight changes to the XV that started against Scotland. An ankle injury to Joe Tomane at training forced another change, with former rugby league player Cooper Vanu drafted into the starting lineup to make his test debut on the right wing.
Barnes has struggled for rhythm for this Super 15 season and was rarely visible in the test against Scotland, but he does have form against Wales - including a pivotal role in the victory in the third-place playoff at the World Cup last October - and will be partnering Will Genia in the halves.
Deans is confident Barnes can spark a reshaped backline, featuring the new midfield pairing of Pat McCabe and Rob Horne and with Adam Ashley-Cooper returning at fullback.
"We're going out there to attack," Deans said.
"We've got some plans that suit us and suit our playing group ... We've got some firepower across the backline that we'll be wanting to bring into the game."
The Welsh have no shortage of firepower after capping an undefeated Six Nations campaign with victory over France.
"This side is playing with confidence and playing good rugby," Howley said.
"If you are going to be in Rugby World Cup finals and semifinals we need that southern hemisphere scalp and it's been very pleasing for us that some of our players are saying that and we believe we have that opportunity.
"The next quest is to back up that Six Nations campaign and win away in the southern hemisphere. There's no harder place to play in world rugby."
Wales has made just four changes to its lineup. Center Jamie Roberts is sidelined due to a knee injury and replaced by Scott Williams, while Ken Owens was picked ahead of Matthew Rees at hooker and the locking combination of Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris was favored to Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans.
Warburton missed the third-place playoff at the World Cup and Australia skipper David Pocock recognized the return of their captain was a boost for the Welsh.
"Wales will have a lot of confidence getting him back," Pocock said Friday.
"He's their go-to man in many ways, gives them direction around the field and a bit of go-forward as well."
Pocock said having so many fresh players coming in had lifted the intensity of the Wallabies squad following the deflating defeat to the Scots. The Wallabies also started the 2011 with a shocking loss - to Samoa - but rebounded to win the Tri-Nations.
"In such a short week, you have to put it behind you very quickly. I think we've done that and moved on," he said, adding that the aftermath of the Scotland loss was nothing like the wake of the defeat to Samoa.
"We haven't had the same amount of time to dwell on it," he said.
"In the Scotland game, it wasn't from a lack of effort. Our tactics just could have been a little bit better in those conditions. I thought the guys' effort was outstanding and it was just a matter of learning from the experience and getting ourselves up for Saturday.
"It's going to take a lot of character to bounce back but I think we can do it."
For Australia, the biggest change is up front, with the Waratahs frontrow coming into the starting lineup enmasse. Benn Robinson will play his first test for 18 months, while Sekope Kepu will prop the other side of the scrum.
Tatafu Polota Nau's selection ahead of Stephen Moore at hooker means there are nine members of the starting XV who featured during Australia's 24-18 win over Wales in Cardiff last December.
The three-test series is a first between the two nations on what is Wales' seventh tour to Australia. The Wallabies have won eight of the nine test meetings on Australian soil - Wales hasn't won since its 19-16 victory at Sydney in 1969.
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Cooper Vanu, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (captain), Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Nic White, Anthony Fainga'a, Mike Harris.
Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins.
Reserves: Matthew Rees, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Ashley Beck.