Just when you thought Australian rugby's reputation couldn’t be damaged any further, their next World Cup opponent is planning an ambush aimed at pushing the Wallabies to a new level of embarrassment. Eddie Jones' broken and beleaguered team will meet Portugal in its final pool game in St Etienne on Monday (Aussie time), bringing an end to the worst World Cup campaign in the Wallabies' storied history.
Jones, his players and Rugby Australia bosses have endured two days of heavy criticism and recrimination following the record 40-6 loss to Wales in Lyon. The defeat ensured the Wallabies would not reach the World Cup knockout stages for the first time, triggering demands for Jones to walk or be sacked.
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The 63-year-old angrily swatted away questions on his future at the post-match press conference, insisting he was not in secret talks to take over as Japan's head coach and is committed to turning Australia's fortunes around. RA will hold off on a decision on Jones until the World Cup is officially over, but the final pool game against Portugal suddenly takes on even greater importance despite its dead rubber status.
The Portuguese are world rugby minnows but almost pulled off a first World Cup victory against Georgia at the weekend, settling for an 18-all draw after dominating for large periods. A missed penalty late in the game cost Os Lobos a historic win.
It followed a courageous 28-8 loss to Wales in Portugal's opening game of the tournament. No one seriously expects the Portuguese part-timers to beat the Wallabies or even get close, but their aim is to make Jones sweat in what could be his final outing as coach.
Portugal planning ambush in final game against Wallabies
Anything but a healthy Wallabies win will heap more scorn on the Australian boss and his demoralised players. "We need to step up on our physicality. We did that against Wales, we did that (against Georgia)," Portugal captain Tomas Appleton said.
"We know our opponents will be stronger than us, bigger than us, and there is a lot of work to do. We have to be more patient when we get to the 22. We are rushing the ball to the backs and throwing 50-50 passes and we can't do it (against Australia).
"We have to hold onto the ball and build phases and score on the eighth, 10th, 15th phase. We want a winning team. We don’t want a team just to participate."
Coach Patrice Lagisquet added: "We are going to fight and exist against superior teams. Our ambition is to attack (Australia) in a timely and efficient manner and we will try to be as good as we can and annoy them and disturb their game."
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