The Wallabies have returned serve at their critics, insisting they’re a happy team not hung up on Rugby World Cup refereeing and keen to express themselves against Uruguay.
Heading into Saturday’s pool game in Oita, the Australians have found themselves fending off questions about their displeasure with decisions from match and judiciary officials at the tournament. Most have emanated from outspoken coach Michael Cheika.
“Whinging Wallabies” headlines have become more prevalent and other coaches have called on the pressure to be eased on referees, without pointing the finger directly at Cheika.
Some former players and coaches, such as Japan-based Robbie Deans, said the negative messages from Wallabies management would inevitably impact on the players, creating an unhappy atmosphere.
However, captain Michael Hooper said the likes of Deans had got it wrong and that officiating had barely been touched on this week.
“There’s a lot said in the news but it’s not stuff that’s echoed in our team room, in our changing room,” Hooper said on Friday.
“I probably would agree with that (Deans’ philosophy), but you’d have to know what’s said behind closed doors to actually know what we’re talking about.
We haven’t taken that tack at all. We’ve got to have a narrow focus and have a critical mindset on what is important.”
The 29-25 loss to Wales means the Wallabies will walk a tight rope for two weeks.
Any slip up against Uruguay or Georgia could be curtains for Hooper’s men in Japan. It’s a prospect sparking an intensity which might not otherwise have existed when preparing for the 18th-ranked South Americans.
Fullback Kurtley Beale said despite what’s at stake, there is a willingness among the Wallabies to chance their arm.
Beale returns after being benched against the Welsh and should get plenty of opportunity to push his claims for a recall.
“Obviously we would like to play our natural game, an expansive game, ball-in-hand smart rugby,” he said.
“That’s something that we’ve focused on throughout the week, and just correcting the wrongs that happened in the Wales game.
“I feel like we’re in a really good space to do that.”
Attack-wise, most interest will be on the debut of boom 19-year-old Jordan Petaia on the left wing.
Beale said he found the rise of Australia’s youngest-ever World Cup player inspiring, with Petaia having bounced back from a debilitating run with injury over the last year.
“I’m actually really proud of him, how he’s bounced back,” Beale said.
“It shows a true testament of who he really is and how committed he is to get back, pushing himself really hard in rehab to get now an opportunity.
“He’s got amazing potential, as a teammate you can see that at training through glimpses here and there.”