The equation is simple for Australia. She must beat Wales on Sunday in Lyon (21pm) to keep her destiny in hand and hope to get out of Pool D of the World Cup. "We have to win, period," said second-row Richie Arnold. A defeat would condemn the Wallabies to hope for a misstep from Fiji against Georgia or Portugal. A rather unlikely scenario given the performance last Sunday in Saint-Etienne of the "Flying Fijians", winners... Australia (22-15).
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It had been 70 years since Pacific men had defeated their yellow-clad neighbors. "This morning when I woke up, I hoped that the result would have changed, but no," despaired Eddie Jones the day after the meeting. The former England coach notes that "the game was out of whack for the first 30 minutes of the game". And no doubt it has been for a little longer.
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Booed by the French public behind Fiji, Eddie Jones takes full responsibility for the defeat and would have "deserved probably more. They should throw chopsticks and croissants at me. I deserve everything I get.»
One win in seven matches
Since January 15, when he returned to the national team after a first stint between 2001 and 2005, the Wallabies have won only one of their seven games: against Georgia (35-15), for their entry into the World Cup. This enhanced success, during which the Will Skelton gang finally did not show much, served as a smokescreen. Australian rugby is sick.
And Wales, certainly not in a royal form, will not be asked to press where it hurts. "We will try to build on our strengths and put them under as much pressure as possible," said Alex King, assistant coach of the XV du Poireau. If we manage to perfectly calibrate all the facets of our game, the discipline, the precision, the static phases, we will become very difficult to beat.»
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Among their "strengths", the Welsh include Dan Biggar, the famous opener whose skill against the poles could hurt a lot if Australia were to be penalized as much as against Fiji. No less than 18 penalties conceded! "We really have to improve on discipline and ground game," says Eddie Jones. Center Samu Kerevi agrees, "you can't give so many points to a great scorer". Already injured in the last game, second-row Will Skelton and right prop Taniela Tupou will not recover in time. A real loss of power for the Wallabies who, without these two managers, have suffered the physical impact of the Fijians.
Gordon replaced at opening
The Australians seem to be sailing by sight, unsure of their strengths, with a young fly-half, Carter Gordon (22), lacking confidence. "Everyone suffers, not just Carter," said Samu Kerevi, a good teammate. Against the Welsh, Jones prefers to start Ben Donaldson, back who, replaced in number 10 during the match against Fiji, had animated the Australian game.
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This considerably rejuvenated group, the youngest since 1995, is looking for leaders. "We are building a team for the future and we are going to go through difficult times," said the coach. I think Australian rugby needs a younger team. I am ready to suffer to leave Australia a team capable of playing well in the World Cup.»
The team will undoubtedly mature for the 2027 World Cup. In the meantime, Australian babies are keen to spare the nation the ridiculousness of a chicken outing. Which is not... never happened in history. And the motivation is there. Hooker David Porecki believes it's "easy" to get back in the saddle before challenging the Welsh, "because it's a World Cup game".
However, the pressure must have been great in recent days on the shoulders of Australia. But Eddie Jones says: "It's the best week ever for the coaches and for the players. It's those weeks that you remember later, when you're under a lot of pressure, in the obligation to achieve a good performance.»