Australia no longer face a do-or-die outcome in their Rugby World Cup clash with England – but it’s close enough.
Wales’ failure on Thursday to secure a bonus point in their 23-13 win over Fiji – much like the Wallabies in their opening fixture – means Michael Cheika’s men will almost certainly get a second bite at the apple regardless of the outcome at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday 0600 AEDT).
The Wallabies, though, can’t afford a blowout loss.
As it stands, Australia sit on nine competition points – four behind Pool A leaders Wales.
With four points for a win, one dished out for a loss by seven points or fewer and another bonus point on offer for scoring four or more tries, the Wallabies control their own destiny.
Should the Wallabies lose to England by seven points or fewer, they would still progress to the quarter-finals with a victory over Wales – as long as the Welsh don’t pick up two bonus points in defeat.
A heavier loss to England would require the Wallabies to either secure a four-try bonus-point victory or one by greater than seven points against Wales.
England still face certain elimination – and the indignity of being the first World Cup hosts being knocked out in the pool stages – should they lose to Australia.
“It’s such a momentous occasion, to play with the Poms in a World Cup at their home and at the home of rugby … it’s something you dream about,” five-eighth Bernard Foley said.
“We’re really looking forward to the occasion and getting the enjoyment out of the experience as well as how much of a tough battle it’s going to be.
“There’s plenty (riding on it) and that’s the exciting thing about it.”
England have had the wood on Australia at recent World Cups, winning the 2003 tournament with a Jonny Wilkinson extra-time field goal over the Wallabies before causing a major boilover to defeat them in the quarter-finals four years later.
But Cheika insists the chance to exact revenge for those losses isn’t weighing heavily on the Wallabies.
“It’s the wrong reason to be playing for. If you are playing for that reason, you haven’t got a real reason for why you want to do it yourself,” Cheika said.
“Anything we are doing here is for us. Not to do anything to anyone else.
“Those external motivations like that, that you talk about and is often said – they last for two minutes on the field.
“When you are going to go through 80 minutes of warfare, or our version of it, you need bigger motivations than that, as those motivations can go away in a heartbeat as soon as one thing goes wrong.
“Our motivations have to be from deep inside.”
Cheika has opted for the rugged Ben McCalman over the dynamic Sean McMahon as back-row bench cover in the only change to Australia’s match-day 23 from their tournament-opening victory over Fiji.
McCalman comes in for the injured Will Skelton, while playmaker Quade Cooper has missed out on a bench spot.
Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.
England: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Brad Barritt, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Joe Marler. Res: Rob Webber, Mako Vunipola, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, Nick Easter, Richard Wigglesworth, George Ford, Sam Burgess.