Wallabies match-winner Bernard Foley has urged teammates, including prop James Slipper, to back themselves and continue to take risks, believing it’s the best way to break their 16-year Rugby World Cup drought.
Foley’s message was delivered with Slipper coming to terms with his costly error that very nearly ended Australia’s campaign prematurely.
As soon as Slipper’s risky pass left his hands late, he could already see Scotland’s Mark Bennett changing his line to snap up the intercept, which he took to the tryline for what seemed like the match-winning play.
But Slipper was spared the ultimate embarrassment as Foley slotted a controversial 80th-minute penalty to seal a one-point win.
It is Foley, the team’s No.10, backing Slipper to make the same pass if confronted with a similar situation later in the tournament, with the Wallabies calling on all their tricks to win their third World Cup but first since 1999.
“Everyone is trying to criticise James for the pass but, if you look at the outside, there was a four-on-one overlap,” Foley said.
“That’s what this team is about.
“We want to be able to show that we play rugby. We don’t fear what could go wrong or looking at the possibility of errors.
“We want to look at the opportunities we can create.
“We want our forwards throwing those passes and playing and intertwining with the backs, because that is ultimately going to make us more of a threatening team and keep defences guessing.”
Slipper is favoured to step into the starting front row against Argentina for Sunday’s (Monday 0300 AEDT) semi-final, with regular starter Scott Sio looking increasingly unlikely to be fit for the Twickenham clash.
Sio is being kept on by the Wallabies and will be given every chance to prove his fitness, but it appears the Argentina fixture will come too soon for the talented 24-year-old.
It would give Slipper a chance to immediately atone for his error, which he admitted left him shaken and upset.
“It’s obviously something I have to live with, I’ve thrown that ball so many times in my career before and I decided to wait for a quarter-final to throw the bad one,” Slipper said.
“It’s the way footy goes. I’m just thankful that the boys recouped and got down the other end of the field and came away with the win.”
As he stood behind the posts waiting for Greig Laidlaw to kick the conversion, which put Scotland two points in front with four minutes to play, Slipper’s mind wandered to what his family and friends would’ve been thinking of his potentially match-defining play.
Along with that, he wanted there to be a scrum in the dying minutes – so he could redeem himself.
“I just remember thinking of my parents and everyone who got up early in the morning to watch us play and all the supporters,” he said.
“It was pretty tough at the time and I was sick in the stomach.
“But in my head, I was thinking ‘if we get in the right spot, I can really try to do something for the team and win a penalty or make a difference’.
“I wasn’t going to drop my head and shy away from the challenge.”