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‘It’s not ideal’: Assistant coach on Wallabies’ bleak quarterfinal hopes

By Finn Morton
The players of Australia form a huddle at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Led by captain David Porecki, the Wallabies grouped together as brothers-in-arms on the field at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium for a moment of celebration after beating Portugal 34-14.

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But there was also a sombre feeling felt around the stadium.

Having beaten Los Lobos in Saint-Etienne on Sunday, Eddie Jones’ Wallabies have probably finished their campaign on a high note. The Aussies stayed “alive” at the World Cup with the 20-point win, but only just.

The Wallabies will avoid a disastrous pool stage exit if Portugal beats the Flying Fijians by eight points or more on Sunday evening. That result would send shockwaves throughout the rugby world.

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With an uncertain future ahead of them, the men in gold will make the most of their bye week with three days off starting on Monday. Some players even travelled up to Lyon.

Wallabies assistant coach Dan Palmer believes Portugal can upset Fiji, but insisted the Aussies will continue to prepare for a quarterfinal clash with England “and see what happens.”

“Our goal was to keep ourselves alive. It’s not ideal that it’s out of our hands but that’s the position we put ourselves in,” Palmer said on Monday morning.

“We did everything we could last night to keep ourselves alive.  Now we’ll go away, freshen up then prepare as if we’re playing a quarter-final and see what happens.”

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The Wallabies started their World Cup campaign with a confidence-building win over Georgia at Stade de France, with utility Ben Donaldson a surprise hero for the men in gold.

But that’s as good as things got for Australia. The Wallabies lost to Fiji for the first time since 1954 and followed that up with a record World Cup defeat to Warren Gatland’s Wales.

If the win over Portugal does end up being their last Test of the year, the Wallabies will have lost seven matches from nine starts under coach Eddie Jones.

“When things like this happen it’s important you spend the time to debrief, review, make sure you learn from it and get a plan together going forward,” Palmer added.

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“Just having the experience is not going to do anything, but spending the time going through it, talking to each other about it, talking to the coaches, is the most important thing.”

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Jon 7 minutes ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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f
finn 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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