If Australia are to win a third World Cup, they believe the role of their `finishers’ will be as vital as anything that happens in the opening sixty minutes of matches.
The Wallabies have announced themselves as a team to be feared over the past fortnight, with contrasting victories over England and Wales showcasing firstly their offensive prowess and then their defensive qualities.
But they feel it is the finishers – or the bench players who are injected into the contest for the final 20 minutes – who could make or break their World Cup hopes.
Against Wales, coach Michael Cheika cleared his bench to help solidify their courageous defensive effort, with the likes of back-rower Ben McCalman and backs Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua coming up with crucial plays, while the front-row rotation also held firm.
As they move into the knock-out stages of the tournament, starting with Sunday’s quarter-final with Scotland at Twickenham, the Wallabies know the margins between winning and losing will narrow – making the finishing roles even more vital.
“I think those guys came off and our finishers who came on really solidified the performance and all those guys in difficult circumstances were outstanding,” defensive coach Nathan Grey said.
“It showed that, to be consistent in this tournament, you’ve got to rely on your 30-man squad.
“That’s going to be evident, moving through into the knock-out stages now.”
Cheika heaped praise on his bench following the Wales victory, where they defended with 13 men for seven minutes following the sin-binnings of Will Genia and Dean Mumm within three minutes of each other.
“They came in and were doing the work of one and a half men, each of them, to try and bring their freshness to the game,” Cheika said.
“They all came on pretty much in that chaotic period and really managed it very well.”
Champion flanker David Pocock, who remains in doubt for the Scotland game with a calf injury, agreed.
“That defensive effort, I’m really proud of the way the guys dug in there, got in the line,” he said.
“That’s all you can do when you’re down to 13 men, and then on the back of that we started to play a bit of rugby in the last five or 10 minutes once Kurtley and the reserves came on.
“That was probably the difference (against Wales), the way the reserves lifted, and against a quality team like Wales and that’s what you want.”