Australia’s path to the World Cup final has been set, with Scotland and then either Ireland or Argentina standing between them and a record fourth appearance on rugby union’s biggest stage.
The Wallabies, like New Zealand, England and France, have played in three World Cup finals – lifting the Web Ellis Cup in both 1991 and 1999.
They are favoured to reach a fourth after dominating the “Pool of Death” to secure their spot on the “softer” side of the draw.
Their first challenger will be world No.9 Scotland on Sunday (Monday 0200 AEDT) at Twickenham – a challenge they won’t take lightly, having lost twice in their past three clashes.
Ireland’s brave 24-9 win over France on Saturday confirmed their place atop Pool D, dropping them onto the same side of the draw and setting up a quarter-final with Argentina.
The victor from that match will face the winner of Australia and Scotland for a World Cup final berth.
Despite delaying any possible match-up with New Zealand or South Africa until the final match of the tournament, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika refuses to describe his team’s path to the final as the less treacherous one.
“I know that people like to make comments based on whatever rankings (there are) but at the end of the day there’s no favourable side of the draw,” he said after Saturday’s 15-6 win over Wales.
“The only favour is that you’re in it, you’re still there.
“That’s the only good bit about it. They’re all tough games now. They’re all knock out.”
Argentina warmed up for the knock-out stages with a 64-19 thrashing of Namibia, but have a woeful record against Australia, having lost all but one of their past 11 clashes.
Ireland, on the other hand, have won two of their past three Wallabies’ fixtures.
Ireland’s win on Sunday, however, came at a cost, with star five-eighth Johnny Sexton leaving the game in the first half with a groin injury and captain Paul O’Connor taken from the field on a stretcher with a serious leg injury.
Defending champions New Zealand are the undisputed tournament favourites, but they’ve drawn World Cup nemesis France.
The unpredictable Tricolours famously knocked the All Blacks out of the 2007 World Cup in the quarter-finals.
In the opening clash of the weekend, Wales take on South Africa at Twickenham.
World Cup quarter-final fixtures
South Africa v Wales at Twickenham, London (4pm local, 0200 Sunday AEDT)
New Zealand v France at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (8pm, 0600 Sunday AEDT)
Ireland v Argentina at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (1pm, 2300 AEDT)
Australia v Scotland at Twickenham, London (4pm, 0200 Monday AEDT)