Australia’s big win over England has put the Wallabies in the box seat to make a fourth Rugby World Cup final.
Now the Wallabies have the chance to secure a much easier passage through to the October 31 title match with victory over Wales in the pool decider at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
As vital as Australia’s 33-13 triumph over England was, the Wallabies’ showdown with the Red Dragon looms as equally critical given that victory will likely guarantee they avoid South Africa and New Zealand until a potential final.
An 11th straight win over the Welsh would likely leave Australia facing Scotland or Japan in the quarter-finals and either France or Ireland in the semis, an infinitely easier path to the final than the alternative.
A loss to Wales would almost certainly leave the two-time champions needing to see off the Springboks in the quarter-finals and then the All Blacks – the reigning World Cup holders – in the semis.
Australia faced that same dreaded scenario at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and, after eliminating the Springboks 11-9 in an epic quarter-final in Wellington, the Wallabies came unstuck 20-6 against the All Blacks at Auckland’s Eden Park.
The Wallabies have won their past 10 clashes with Wales stretching back to 2008 and another success would leave Michael Cheika’s men favourites to square off with the All Blacks in a World Cup final for the first time.
“The approach doesn’t change,” Cheika said.
“We just keep going day by day.
“I know you’ll get bored of this, but we’re genuinely living that story.”
AUSTRALIA’S POTENTIAL ROAD TO WORLD CUP FINAL IF THEY BEAT WALES ON SATURDAY
Quarter-final v Scotland or Japan, Twickenham, October 18
Semi-final v France or Ireland, Twickenham, October 25
AUSTRALIA’S POTENTIAL ROAD TO WORLD CUP FINAL IF THEY LOSE TO WALES ON SATURDAY
Quarter-final v South Africa, Twickenham, October 17
Semi-final v New Zealand, Twickenham, October 24