The Wallabies’ charmed run at the Rugby World Cup continues with injuries and suspensions ravaging rivals on their path toward a record fourth final appearance.
Having made their own luck, playing their way into the softer half of the knockout stages through topping the brutally tough Pool A, Australia now find their task made easier by the misfortunes of others.
Their Sunday quarter-final opponents Scotland and potential semi-final rival Ireland both copped major blows from the World Cup judiciary on Tuesday.
Scotland had leading lock Jonny Gray and hooker Ross Ford suspended for the remainder of the tournament, unless they successfully contest three-week bans for a tip tackle on Samoa flanker Jack Lam.
Injury-ravaged Ireland had champion flanker Sean O’Brien, arguably their best player, banned from Sunday’s quarter-final against Argentina for punching in their costly pool match win over France.
World No.9 Scotland’s two suspensions are a huge setback for the Dark Blues, who had already expressed the need for a Hollywood-style upset as they face an Australian side who are almost unbackable favourites with bookmakers.
“It’s not just any team we are up against this weekend, it’s Australia – one of the biggest teams in the world,” Scotland prop Gordon Reid said.
“But we’ve got a bit of belief about us now. Anything can happen.
“Everyone is writing us off as underdogs. I don’t care. It’s awesome. Just look at the movies.
“It’s always the underdog who wins – just look at the Mighty Ducks. We can be those Mighty Ducks.”
A victory over Scotland would set up a semi-final clash with another potentially hobbled opponent – with Ireland favoured to take down Argentina, despite a horror injury toll.
The suspended O’Brien joins Paul O’Connell in missing Saturday’s clash after his skipper was ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
Luck has well and truly abandoned the Irish, who will also be without flanker Peter O’Mahony (knee) and possibly five-eighth Jonny Sexton (groin) at the weekend.
As chaos consumed their opponents, Michael Cheika’s Wallabies continued their steady build-up and were even greeted with positive news on influential No.8 David Pocock, who they expect to recover from a calf injury to face Scotland.
“We’ve kind of had that (finals) mentality from the start so I don’t think that anything has really changed,” back-rower Scott Fardy said.
“We obviously had some very difficult opponents in our pool and we just want to play our game and let the cards falls the way they do.
“I think we’ve done that in the first few games but we’re looking forward to what will be a big challenge in Scotland on Sunday.”