With his team 80 minutes away from achieving the greatest feat in Australian rugby history, coach Michael Cheika is in no mood to look backwards.
Victory in Saturday’s (Sunday 0300 AEDT) World Cup final with New Zealand at Twickenham would elevate this Wallabies side above even the champion teams of 1991 and 1999 – simply for how unlikely a feat it would be this time around.
Cheika’s meticulous planning has been pivotal in them making an unlikely run at the World Cup, but on the eve of the final it appeared he’d finally slipped up – with some team tactics leaked after a piece of paper was spotted during the captain’s run on Friday.
Cheika and his scrum coach Mario Ledesma reportedly gave away the information by conspicuously holding pieces of paper carrying details that were intended to remain secret.
It revealed a plan to “expose” wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea under the high ball and “rattle” No.8 Kieran Read at re-starts.
Whether it was more mind games from the wily Cheika was not clear, but the coach has worked hard to take the attention off his players – leaving his team focused solely on the goal of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.
If they can, the Wallabies will become the first nation to do so, but Cheika insists his team will block out all memories – good and bad – of the past 12 months.
He admitted they’d hung on too long to their dominant performances in the so-called Pool of Death, and potentially patted themselves a bit too much, and it nearly resulted in a shock quarter-final exit to Scotland – before a controversial last-minute penalty helped them advance.
So they won’t be drawing too much from that gutsy win, or the 13-man defensive effort against Wales a week earlier, or even their gritty semi-final win over Argentina.
Even their victory over the All Blacks in August, which saw the debut of the unbeaten David Pocock-Michael Hooper back-row combination, doesn’t rate a mention for Cheika this week.
“They always say (if) you look backwards, you’re only going to get a sore neck,” Cheika said after his team’s captain’s run on Friday.
“For us, it’s there but it means nothing really. Is it a few little tactical things really, maybe, but it really means nothing.
“It’s what happens in the next day or so that’s in front of us.
“The last parts of our preparation and the 80 minutes that’s ahead of us (on Saturday).
“Being ready to play those out to the maximum of your potential and then see where the cards fall.”
Australia will be at full-strength, and have been boosted by the return of loosehead prop Scott Sio who should help remedy some of the flaws which surfaced in the Wallabies’ scrum against Los Pumas last weekend.
Sio said he was 100 per cent ready to go, and would not be taking the field if there was any danger his injury would let the side down.
“Things like this you’ve just got to be pretty honest with yourself and honest with the team,” he said.
“I got through everything (on Thursday): scrums, mauls, lineouts.
“Cheik said ‘how are you feeling’ and I said, ‘I’m good’.
“Obviously last week it was a bitter pill to swallow not being able to represent the team against Argentina but I knew myself that I wasn’t going to be able to contribute to the team the same way that I could.
“And I wouldn’t want to put the team in that position at all.”