The Wallabies could be hit by a third injury setback within a week after winger Rob Horne suffered a shoulder injury in the famous World Cup thumping of England.
But the outstanding performance of replacement Kurtley Beale will certainly give coach Michael Cheika plenty to think about should the sturdy utility back not be available for Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) clash with Wales.
There were also concerns for star fullback Israel Folau, who failed to finish the 33-13 thrashing at Twickenham after rolling his ankle.
Horne left the field just 11 minutes into the match and finished the night with his arm in a sling, prompting fears he could join forwards Will Skelton (pectoral) and Wycliff Palu (hamstring) in being ruled out of the tournament.
Cheika said the extent of the injury was unclear and that Horne will likely be sent for scans on Sunday.
“We’re not sure if (the shoulder) came out or not,” he said.
“He seems pretty good right now but we’ll let it settle for 24 hours (then maybe scans).”
Beale, more at home at fullback, five-eighth or centre, put in a memorable performance against England – which included setting up Bernard Foley’s second try with a scything run and clever draw and pass when confronted by England fullback Mike Brown.
He starred from the wing until Folau went off late – and then helped steer Australia home from fullback.
Australia are well stocked for outside backs should Horne be ruled out, with veteran winger Drew Mitchell coming close to forcing his way into the team this week having been named on an extended bench by Cheika on Thursday.
But Beale put forward a compelling case for inclusion.
“I thought Kurtley Beale … was outstanding in that position,” Cheika said.
“He really took a lot of control there and I was really pleased with the way he filled in for Israel in the back half of the game.”
Cheika insisted Folau’s ankle complaint was only minor.
As the Wallabies’ most dynamic ball-runner and major attacking threat, the 26-year-old was taken from the field as a precaution – with a view to keeping him fit and firing for the knock-out games to come.
“Obviously he’s one of our go-to (players) so we can’t leave him out there if he’s not at his best physically, you’ve got to back your team,” Cheika said.