Coach Michael Cheika says moments of truth will test all he’s worked so hard to instil when the Wallabies confront England and the “thunder of Twickenham” on Saturday.
Battered, beaten and under-siege, England risk an embarrassing World Cup pool stage exit, but Cheika knows they could hardly be more dangerous – especially given their home ground advantage – and is adamant they should remain second favourites behind New Zealand to win the World Cup.
He is looking to the mental lessons he’s been drilling into his squad to get the Wallabies through the big pressure moments when the game is in the balance and the decibel level of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” sung by the Twickenham faithful makes it hard to communicate.
England have a 68.44 win percentage at their spiritual home, up from their regular winning rate of 57.39 per cent.
The noise and hostility will be fiercer than ever for a match which is do or die following England’s stunning 28-25 loss to Wales last Saturday.
The Wallabies, too, would face an uphill battle to reach the knock-out stages should they lose to due to their failure to land a bonus point in their tournament-opening win over Fiji.
“We have been trying to prepare for that for a long time by building our own self-belief,” Cheika said.
“There are going to be tough times there where you are under pressure, and it is about how you deal with that (through) belief that you have that you are going to get out of that situation.
“When the thunder of Twickenham comes, (we need to) have the answers for that.
“That’s what we have been working on – those moments.”
Australia have already been subjected to renditions of the English rugby anthem this tour – during their opening two Pool A victories.
Despite their first-up clash being played in Cardiff, and against Fiji, England fans still managed to fill Millennium Stadium, just as they did at Villa Park in Birmingham five days later when Australia thrashed Uruguay.
As much as it can provide a lift to the home side, it can also unsettle opponents – not least because of the noise which arrives at crucial lineouts late in the match, causing communication issues like those which led to a turnover for the Wallabies at Millennium Stadium.
Cheika believes the key to recovering from those moments, in such an environment, is being able to re-focus quickly.
“For players who know what they’re about, know their role in the team and then can re-focus in those moments, they’re the ones who will succeed,” he said.
“That’s something we knew we would be encountering, so we have tried, as best we can because you can’t simulate it, to prepare a map to get out of the situations.”
He now feels he has a squad with the belief to handle the big moments.
“It is probably an area in the past where we haven’t been as strong because we have lacked a bit of belief in ourselves, to get out of the situation,” Cheika said.
“It is just about not fearing failure and backing what you have prepared and going to it.
“Daring yourself to be good enough and putting it on the line.”