"Do or die": Rise of the minnows has Wallabies paying Uruguay major respect

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

A loss to Wales - and Uruguay’s shock win over Fiji - has scrubbed out any shred of potential Australian complacency ahead of the Wallabies' third pool clash against their small South American rival in Oita.

Normally a clash against Uruguay would see the Wallabies roll out their “B” team at a World Cup, and subconsciously shift down a gear, but the noticeable rise of the minnow nations in Japan has changed the picture for the Wallabies.

Instead of looking towards the quarter-finals from on top of the pool, they now have to simply bank wins in remaining pool games to guarantee they’re even in the playoffs.

And while it’s likely Michael Cheika will still roll out players who’ve not yet played, the prospect of Uruguay being as easily handled as their last World Cup meeting in 2015 - a 65-3 win in Birmingham - has changed.

Los Teros, who are ranked 18th in the world and are drawn from just 6000 registered players in Uruguay, caused the first major upset of the tournament when they beat Fiji in Kamaishi.

"It’s a do-or-die game for us and it’s against a team that beat Fiji,” Wallabies halfback Nic White said. 

"Certainly the days of old World Cups where there are two different tiers are gone. We’ve certainly got a lot of respect for them. 

"They play with some serious passion. They’re going to be physical and in terms of what they’re going to throw at us I think a degree of not knowing may help us. It’s about focusing on ourselves and being ready for anything because they play pretty unpredictable footy. That’s going to be a challenge.”

"There’s a lot of respect for everyone and all teams. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. 

"You’ve certainly got to turn up with a frame of mind to really go after every game and treat it as a do-or-die. The days of those old World Cups where you could completely just rest and ease into a game are gone."

While everyone else is translating the Wallabies’ loss to Wales as a different quarter-final path further down the road, the Wallabies won’t be looking past  Uruguay, said White. To do so would be a huge mistake.

"We have to make it to the quarters first, for us. It’s pretty simple. Thats all we are saying at the moment,” White said.

"We have to win and keep winning. We don’t have that luxury of maybe other nations at the moment, thinking which way we are we going to go through it. For us it is this week."

Georgia shape as the sterner of Australia’s remaining two pool rivals, having beaten Uruguay 35-7 on Sunday.

That challenge - and a quarter-final fixture after that - would likely point towards Cheika giving key men their rest this week and going in full-strength against Georgia.

Players like Taniela Tupou, Tevita Kuridrani, Folau Faingaa, Rob Simmons and Jordan Petaia will likely come into the starting side, along with bench men like Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

Prop Scott Sio said he didn’t believe the Wales defeat - and the need to lock down another win - would see Cheika and the selectors deviate from their plans to use squad depth this weekend.

“I don’t think so, I think Cheik and them have been very steady in their plan,” Sio said. 

"I think it’s more about that squad mentality I alluded to before, making sure everyone’s ready to play no matter what role they play this weekend.

“They know what they want to do and if you’re name’s called upon, you’ve got to be ready to play Saturday. Every game is a must win for us.”

Tupou, who has been behind Sekope Kepu in the prop pecking order, has been dangerously enthusiastic at training, Sio said.

“He’s been bruising a few of us getting us ready for the weekend at training,

"I think the greatest thing so far is that everyone realises how important the squad effort is each week, making sure that we’re getting the best out of each other so that we can prepare the best way we can so that come game day we;re ready to go.

“It’s really cool to see at such a young age that he realises the importance of that so there’s a lot of games ahead of us, two for sure, and I’m sure Taniela will feature at some point.”