Australia is now in real danger of failing to progress past the group stage at the Rugby World Cup for the first time in the team’s history after their shock loss to Fiji on Monday morning.
Coach Eddie Jones is adamant the team can still progress to the quarter-finals despite losing a Test to the island nation for the first time in 69 years, but they now have a far steeper mountain to climb.
The 22-15 defeat leaves Australia languishing behind Wales and Fiji in pool C, with Georgia and Portugal to play on Saturday.
Only the top two teams from each pool progress past the group stage of the tournament. Teams can earn a bonus point by scoring four or more tries in a match, and by losing by seven or fewer points.
Rob Valetini’s body language spoke volumes after the Wallabies turned in a shocking performance to fall to Fiji at the World Cup
The Aussies now have a far steeper mountain to climb in order to avoid crashing out of the Cup in the pool stage for the first time ever (pictured, Wallabies stars react to the Fiji loss)
The Fiji loss means the Wallabies have to win their remaining pool matches against Wales (September 25) and Portugal (October 2) to progress.
However, since Wales beat Fiji in their first pool clash, even that might not be enough to guarantee progress to the knockout stages – meaning the Aussies would need to clock up bonus points.
Their best chance of doing so will be running in four or more tries against lowly-ranked Portugal.
Wales will be a stern test for the team, as they are ranked eighth in the world, just one spot below Australia.
To make matters worse, star forwards Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou will miss the clash against the Welsh due to injury.
Tate McDermott suffered a concussion against Fiji but Jones said he will be fit for the crucial pool clash.
Jones remained optimistic about the Wallabies’ chances of making the quarter-finals – even though the shock defeat has left them with no room for error
The coach remained optimistic about his side’s chances of progressing despite the shattering nature of their loss to Fiji.
‘The great thing about a World Cup is it’s not the end of the road and we’ve got Wales next week, so we need to kick some stones tonight, work out where we can improve quickly and get on with it,’ Jones said.
‘I’ve got no doubt we get a response. We’ve had a bit of a setback today but that’s all part of being in a World Cup.’
Australian incurred a fateful tally of 18 penalties, with a final scrum penalty after fulltime almost costing them a crucial bonus point, only for Fijian Frank Lomani’s kick to sail wide of the posts.
“When you’re not on the front foot it’s quite easy to give away penalties so I’m not worried about our discipline, I’m worried about not getting on the front foot because if you can’t you’re battling,” Jones said.