Australia v Portugal - teams and prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND FOUR: The Wallabies have emerged from a “bad hangover” to set themselves for one last night out in France as their World Cup pool stage – and likely tournament – ends with Portugal.
Their 6-40 loss to Wales – the Wallabies’ worst defeat in Cup history – took quarterfinal destiny out of their hands and rocked the players and establishment alike.
Only some major upsets in Fiji’s remaining pool games would see Australia survive to limp into the play-offs.
It also relies on the Wallabies beating world No.16 Portugal in Saint-Etienne on Sunda with a bonus point, which on their current form is no guarantee.
Wallabies flank Fraser McReight said the night after the Welsh defeat took its toll.
“It was like we woke up from a bad hangover,” the 24-year-old said.
“It was very tough. It was something we just couldn’t get out of our heads.”
Like many a young man, McReight said they were determined to shake it off and go again with a statement win over the Portuguese required.
“We all know what’s happened and why,” said McReight, a former Junior Wallabies captain.
“We’ve definitely had some tough meetings this week, not necessarily player-led, but with Eddie [Jones] and the staff involved as well. When they’ve pointed you at the chest, it’s hurtful as well.
“There is a core group here that will be involved in Australian rugby moving forward to the next World Cup. The big key lesson for us is being able to endure the pain but also learn from it.
“It has to be a motivational factor moving forward. It was a tough day in the sheds.”
Coach Eddie Jones has born the brunt of the criticism for their performance against Wales, and also for their first loss to Fiji at a World Cup.
Committed to the cause
Signed until the 2027 World Cup in Australia Jones said he’s “100 percent” committed to the group despite links to the Japanese coaching vacancy.
He said the players had worked hard to prepare for Portugal, who drew with Georgia in their last outing.
“With the young players we wanted to get their thoughts in their head about how we want to play against Portugal and we’ve got a clear plan,” Jones said.
“I think we’ve trained really well but we are not getting the results, and sometimes the scoreboard is the last thing to change and that’s hard to take and I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes that’s the case.”
Jones stood by his controversial decision to overhaul the team in favour of youth, fielding the youngest Wallabies side in tournament history.
The combined tally of Test appearances for the eight-man bench to face Portugal is 51, with 20 coming from Rob Leota, who is the only player in double figures.
“All we can do is try to get better every day,” Jones said.
“That is the only thing we can do.
“We’ve got a young squad here, I purposefully picked a young squad – I think they are the best players in Australia.
“There is no lack of desire, no lack of work ethic, no lack of spirit in the team. They are a great bunch of boys.
“We are just not good enough at the moment, but if we keep working the way we are, we will be.”
Meanwhile, Portugal head coach Patrice Lagisquet has made four changes, all in the forward pack, to his starting XV that drew 18-18 with Georgia last game.
David Costa earns his first start of World Cup 2023, replacing Francisco Fernandes at loose-head. He has averaged only 26 minutes of game time at this tournament.
Martim Belo returns to partner Jose Madeira in the second row after playing 14 minutes off the bench last week.
There are two new faces in the back row with David Wallis and Thibault de Freitas joining Nicolas Martins in the starting XV for the first time at World Cup 2023.
@Rugby365: Australia by 20 points
Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Richie Arnold, 4 Nick Frost, 3 James Slipper, 2 David Porecki (captain), 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Josh Kemeny, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa , 22 Carter Gordon, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu.
Portugal: 15 Nuno Sousa Guedes, 14 Raffaele Storti, 13 Pedro Bettencourt, 12 Tomás Appleton (captain), 11 Rodrigo Marta, 10 Jerónimo Portela, 9 Samuel Marques , 8 Thibault de Freitas, 7 Nicolas Martins, 6 David Wallis, 5 Martim Belo, 4 José Madeira, 3 Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 David Costa
Replacements: 16 Francisco Fernandes, 17 Duarte Diniz, 18 Francisco Bruno, 19 Steevy Cerqueira, 20 Rafael Simoes, 21 Joao Belo, 22 Joris Moura, 23 Manuel Cardoso Pinto
Date: Sunday, October 1
Venue: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT; 16.00 WEST, 1.45 Monday, October 2 AEST)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France) & Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Joy Neville (England)