The Wallabies are confident star fullback Israel Folau will overcome an ankle complaint to face Wales in their final World Cup pool match on Saturday.
Australia coach Michael Cheika has delayed his team naming until he puts Folau through his paces in a fitness test later on Thursday, but indicated the team’s medical staff had been pleased with his progress since rolling an ankle in last week’s 33-13 win over England.
Should Folau fail in a bid to prove his fitness, it is understood the versatile Kurtley Beale has been placed on standby.
Former NRL and AFL star Folau has the enviable record of having not missed a Test through injury since his debut in 2013.
Cheika, meanwhile, said it would not be a surprise if Wales deployed their own ball-hunting duo of Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric to counter the Wallabies’ fearsome backrow.
The dynamic backrow combination of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy has been a major factor in the Wallabies’ success at the World Cup, with teams unable to get parity at the breakdown.
And even with the tough-tackling Hooper suspended for the Wales clash, having copped a one-game ban stemming from the England clash, Cheika has the option of calling on either Sean McMahon or Ben McCalman to join the starting lineup.
For Wales coach Warren Gatland to pick Warburton and Tipuric, both primarily openside flankers, it would be to fight fire with fire.
“I would not be surprised if there are two opensides,” Cheika said.
“Tipuric is a fantastic player.
“We respect their players massively and we have to make sure we isolate and try to get onto our ball.”
Saturday’s match will decide the winner of Pool A and determine who falls into the easier side of the draw – with the loser to face a resurgent South Africa in next week’s quarter-final.
The Springboks have recovered from their opening-game humiliation at the hands of Japan to be arguably the form team heading into the knock-out stages, wrapping up their pool proceedings with a 64-0 trouncing of the USA on Wednesday.
Whoever tops Pool A will face the far more palatable prospect of the Pool B runners-up, which will be either Scotland or Japan.