Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) – Australia coach Eddie Jones said on Saturday he was preparing his team for the quarter-finals following their 34-14 victory over Portugal that kept their faint Rugby World Cup progress hopes alive.
The Wallabies ran in five tries — three when Portugal had a man in the sin-bin — on their way to only their second victory of this tournament in France.
Defeats to Fiji and Wales — the latter by a record score — has left them knowing that progress is out of their hands.
If Fiji take any points against Portugal next weekend, Australia will be out.
“We’re still alive. That was the aim of the day,” said Jones, who praised his team’s resilience during a second-half period when they had two players in the sin-bin.
“For a young team down to 13 men we showed plenty of courage and fought hard.
“We’ve done that all season, sometimes the results haven’t been in our favour … well, most of the time.
“It’s a real credit to them. You look at the experience of our players out there, we’re averaging less than 20 caps.”
Australia now face a frustrating and uncertain week ahead, waiting for the final Pool C matches where their fate will be determined.
Fiji will be favourites to beat Portugal and join Wales in the quarter-finals but there is still a small chance of Australia going through if Portugal were to win and deny the Pacific Islanders a bonus point.
“I’ve never experienced this before so I really don’t know,” Jones said when asked what he felt about the uncertainty ahead.
“We’re anticipating we’ll be in the quarter-finals so we have plans to have three days off and then three days training,” he said.
“We’ll see on Sunday night. Portugal played with plenty of spirit tonight so you never know.”
And while many people expected Australia to win more comfortably than the final score, Jones insisted he was happy.
“I thought defensively we worked really hard. Attack-wise we had bits and pieces.
“We still lack that clinical edge to our game. We do some good things and then we give the ball back too quickly.”
After the game, the Wallaby players came together in a circle and captain David Porecki said the mood was positive, despite their likely looming exit.
“It was celebratory. I’m proud of the boys, it was a tough week to turn it around and we did that,” he said.
“It wasn’t sombre at all it was positive.”
‘Imperfect, giving, exciting’
Portugal’s French coach Patrice Lagisquet said he had some regrets after his side scored the opening try through Pedro Bettencourt but then saw the centre sin-binned soon afterwards and conceded three tries while a man down.
That took the game away from them with two thirds of it still to play.
“There’s a mix of frustration and pride. Frustration because at 15 against 15 we would maybe have resisted better,” he said.
“The yellow card hurt us badly, we weren’t able to manage that period.
“We should have kicked differently, not systematically in an attacking way as we did but to send them back into their half.”
But he praised his side’s style of pay, which had the crowd of more than 40,000 people in Saint Etienne regularly on their feet.
“With a bit more experience this team could be a bit more ambitious,” he said.
“But it’s a joy to coach this team. They are imperfect, they have shortcomings, but they are so giving, exciting, they play complete rugby.
“It’s great to coach them and I think the players enjoy it and the crowd too.”
Next up it will be Fiji but Lagisquet admitted he is not confident.
“I’m a little worried about our next match against Fiji. They didn’t manage their game against Georgia well and I’m afraid they will want to make up for it against us.”
© 2023 AFP