Former skipper Stirling Mortlock believes the Wallabies are on track to pull off arguably the greatest feat in Australian rugby history at the World Cup.
With the draw unfolding as it is, the Wallabies may well have to complete a grand slam-like sweep of the four home nations and then conquer the mighty All Blacks in a first-time final between the trans-Tasman rivals to bring home the Webb Ellis Cup.
The Alan Jones-coached, Andrew Slack-captained and Mark Ella-inspired Australian touring team that beat England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland in successive Tests in 1984 ranks almost alongside the Wallabies’ triumphant World Cup sides of 1991 and 1999.
Thirty-one years on, Michael Cheika’s Wallabies may well need to emulate the fabled grand slammers just to make the World Cup final, where the top-ranked All Blacks are likely to confront them.
If Australia beat Wales and Ireland beat France this weekend, the Wallabies, having already seen off England, are expected to face Scotland in the quarter-finals and either the Irish or Argentina in the semis.
“To pull off a grand slam in three or four sudden-death (games) on the way to a final, if it turns out that way, that’d be phenomenal,” Mortlock told AAP.
“There’s a really good amount of confidence and a lot of signs that the guys are on the right path.”
Mortlock was at Twickenham last Saturday when Australia dumped hosts England from the tournament and found the Wallabies’ dominant scrummaging performance was especially heartening.
Australia is also the only team undefeated in World Cup matches in Britain and Ireland having won both previous tournaments staged in the UK.
But as captain of the much-fancied Australian side that suffered a shock quarter-final elimination at the hands of England in Marseilles in 2007, Mortlock suspects the Wallabies’ class of 2015 will be focusing solely on beating Wales to top Pool A.
“I just know from experience that you can’t get ahead of yourself,” he said.
“That’s a surefire way of getting blindsided.
“This World Cup has been phenomenal as far as there’s been some big upsets already and I’m sure there’ll be some more, so probably Australia will be making sure they’re not on the receiving end of one of those upsets.
“In particular, against a Welsh team that has been able to graft out some great victories and is undermanned due to significant injuries. They’ll be dangerous.
“I have tremendous respect for (Warren) Gatland as a coach and his ability to find unique insights to pinpoint weaknesses in a team.
“As punters and lovers of the game, we love to speculate on the ramifications and who may be our potential opponents but, from the Wallabies’ perspective, that is totally out of their control.”