Eddie Jones has accepted that Australia are “under the pump” as they prepare for a make-or-break Rugby World Cup meeting with Wales.
A first pool-stage exit in World Cup history will loom for the Wallabies if they fail to beat Warren Gatland’s team in Lyon on Sunday. By contrast, Wales top of the group with a maximum 10 points from two games and are moving towards a fourth successive World Cup quarter-final appearance.
While the Welsh go about business back at their Versailles training base, Jones and his coaching staff are picking through the pieces of a first defeat against Fiji since 1954.
“We are moving on to Wales now,” said Jones, the Australia head coach whose side were beaten 22-15 in Saint-Etienne on Sunday. “These are the weeks you remember when you are under the pump quite a lot and you have got to produce a good performance.
“We are starting to set our sights on how we need to play against Wales. The only thing we are worried about is Wales this week. We would be happy to play them tomorrow if they wanted to play.”
Wales have beaten Australia in three of the countries’ past four meetings, while the two-time world champions will also be without the injured forwards Taniela Tupou and Will Skelton, increasing their degree of difficulty in a game of intense pressure.
Jones said: “There are no problems with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance. We are all still searching for answers. None of us has the 100% answer, but we have ideas about where the game came unstuck.
“Wales are a completely different team. They grind away at you, whereas Fiji is power. This is one of the biggest challenges for this team and for the coaching staff. We know how we want to play against Wales and we are going to work really hard to get the players back on track.
“When you have a loss like this, it knocks you around a bit. It knocks you emotionally and team-ethics wise. You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room.
“There is noise from outside which you have to handle. That is the challenge for the coaching staff this week, to make sure they have got the right noise.”
Wales are back at their training base, with only the flanker Tommy Reffell and the prop Henry Thomas among Gatland’s squad likely to need fitness assessments. Reffell pulled out of Wales’s match against Portugal just before kick-off in Nice because of a tight calf muscle, while Thomas has played no part in the tournament so far because of a hamstring issue.
Malan faces up to six months out injured
The Namibia centre Le Roux Malan said the ankle fracture and dislocation he sustained during the 71-3 defeat against New Zealand on Friday was not as bad as initially feared but it will still put him out of action for up to six months.
Malan had to be treated on the pitch for 18 minutes before being carried off on a stretcher to a rousing ovation from the Stadium de Toulouse crowd.
“It turned out to be so much better than we initially thought. We thought the tibia was off but it’s only four to six months, which is unreal,” said Malan, who had surgery on Friday night.
Malan received a visit on Sunday from the All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who presented the Namibian with a signed New Zealand shirt. “For someone like me who has been through shoulder surgery, I definitely feel his pain,” Lienert-Brown said.
“When you’re passionate and driven about a sport you love, when it’s stopped for six months like that it can be tough. But it’s good to see he is in awesome spirits.”
Malan was born in Windhoek but schooled at Paarl Boys High outside Cape Town, which is noted for producing South African internationals. He had a spell in the academy of the Durban-based Sharks but now plays for the New England Free Jacks in Major League Rugby in the US.
Family affair for Gontineac
Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle for any rugby player but the quadrennial showpiece tournament has an even deeper significance for the Romania centre Taylor Gontineac.
The 23-year-old’s parents met after his father Romeo, also a centre, played for Romania against his mother’s native South Africa in Cape Town at the 1995 World Cup.
“It’s a family history, my parents met after this match in South Africa in 1995 and I think if it wasn’t for that match I wouldn’t be here today,” he said with a chuckle after getting his shot at playing the Springboks in Bordeaux on Sunday.
“It’s a nice little tribute for me and my family to play against South Africa, the world champions, more than 20 years after my dad. It’s fantastic and a wonderful feeling.”
Gontineac senior stayed on briefly in South Africa before playing club rugby for 14 years in France, where his son Taylor was born, raised and now plays for Rouen Normandie.
Although both lost against South Africa at their respective World Cups, Romeo Gontineac will retain some bragging rights as his Romania side went down only 21-8 at Newlands in 1995 while Taylor was on the wrong end of a 76-0 thrashing on Sunday.
De Groot banned until quarter-finals
The All Blacks prop Ethan De Groot has been banned for New Zealand’s last two World Cup pool matches after failing to convince the judiciary that his foul play in the win against Namibia last week did not meet the red-card threshold.
De Groot was shown a yellow card for making contact with the head of Adriaan Booysen in the last 10 minutes of New Zealand’s 71-3 win at the Stadium de Toulouse but it was upgraded to a red after being reviewed by the television match official.
The New Zealand head coach, Ian Foster, had suggested the All Blacks would argue that the challenge started as shoulder-to-shoulder contact and therefore was not a red card offence.
The independent panel decided, however, that De Groot’s failure to wrap his arms around his opponent meant the tackle was always illegal and the head contact meant it was worthy of a six-match ban. The ban was halved for De Groot’s previous good behaviour and will be further reduced by one match if he attends a World Rugby coaching intervention programme.
The 25-year-old loosehead will therefore miss the match against Italy in Lyon on 29 September and New Zealand’s final pool match against Uruguay in the same city a week later before he becomes available for the quarter-finals. De Groot has 48 hours to appeal against the decision.