Japan’s stunning upset of rugby superpowers South Africa is proof the gap is closing between the haves and the have nots, further enforcing why the Wallabies won’t take Fiji and Uruguay lightly.
At the World Cup, any game is a potential banana skin.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says his squad, who face Fiji in their opener in Cardiff on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEST) before backing up against Uruguay on Sunday, won’t make the mistake of letting their thoughts wander to the big Pool A matches against England and Wales which follow.
“What we saw from (Japan’s win is) if you take your eye off the ball for a minute, you will get pounded,” Cheika said on Sunday.
“I am certainly not going to take my eye off the ball.
“That’s the thing about rugby, it’s a very humbling game.
“You do well in one scrum and you knock off in another and you’ll get turned up; you carry strong once but if you don’t carry strong the next time someone will pick you up and dump you.”
As a close friend of Japan coach Eddie Jones, who guided the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final, Cheika took particular delight in Saturday’s monumental upset.
Not least of all because it highlighted the growing strength in tier-two nations, and followed on from Georgia’s surprise victory over Tonga earlier on Saturday.
“As professionalism gets a little more mature, all team are coming here with a goal,” Cheika added.
“Not every team’s goal might be to win the tournament, but all teams are coming with an objective.
“No-one is coming here to participate only.
“Most people probably thought Tonga would beat Georgia, but Georgia came with a goal.
“A team aligned with a goal is a very dangerous beast.”
One thing is certain – Cheika is confident there isn’t a hint of complacency among his playing group when it comes to shaping up against Fiji.
“I don’t think that’s in our team. I would sniff that straight away,” he said.
Aside from the hours of opposition footage which the coaching staff pore over before dissecting for the playing group to devour, the Wallabies are familiar with several key Fijians – notably ex-Waratahs pair Ben Volavola and giant winger Nenami Nadolo.
“Many of our players have been run around or run over or head on tackled by one of them at some stage, so everyone knows (what they’re capable of),” Cheika said.