Pool C preview: Australia v USA
Thu, 22 Sep 2011 00:00
Under-pressure Australia know they can leave nothing back at the team hotel when they face what is expected to be an extremely physical United States side in a must-win World Cup match in Wellington on Friday.
The Wallabies suffered a shock 6-15 defeat to Ireland last weekend and have left themselves in the position of having to win their two final pool matches, against the US Eagles and then Russia, to guarantee a berth in the quarterfinals.
They must now also do what no team has done before and come back from a pool game loss to lift their third Webb Ellis Cup.
In the absence of rested lock James Horwill, scrumhalf Will Genia will captain an Australian side showing six changes from the one that lost to Ireland.
"We've got a big job ahead of us. The United States showed against Ireland that they are a totally committed opponent," said Genia.
"Our own performance against Ireland, which was not up to the high standards we set for ourselves, will only have offered the Americans further encouragement."
Genia added: "We just need to get out there and get it done, and that's pretty much the focus of the whole group. We're obviously disappointed with last week and want to go out there and make things right.
"It was one poor game. We made poor decisions and the result was we didn't come away with the good result.
"We worked on things to simplify the decision making."
The US team come into Friday's game on the back of a narrow 13-6 victory over Russia, just four days after having gone down 10-22 to Ireland in a tough opening match.
US coach Eddie O'Sullivan has made 14 changes to his team, key forwards Todd Clever and Mike MacDonald not even making the bench, but the former Ireland boss denied claims it was a second-string XV.
"There's quite a few changes. It's a fairly mixed bag," acknowledged O'Sullivan. "But the guys are bringing lots of energy. A lot of the guys haven't suited up yet.
"We're not throwing a bunch of rookies in there, there's quite a bit of experience running through the team. There are a lot of guys who were close to starting against Ireland or against Russia but didn't get the start."
O'Sullivan admitted that his team were girded for a potential Wallaby backlash after their surprise loss to the Irish.
"There's no question about it, any team that comes off a defeat will always want to make a statement and I have no doubt that will be the intent of Australia against us, to lay down a marker," he said.
"We'll try to stick to our plans and system, and under pressure will look to not abandon ship.
"Particularly in the last 20 minutes, [it's about] staying within striking distance as long as we can and staying on the horse as long as we can.
"At times we've been a bit punchdrunk. We just need to hang in there and keep swinging and stay in the game until the last quarter.
"That's always the plan when you're boxing out of your weight category."
Players to Watch:
For Australia: You will look at the Wallaby playmakers - Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper - to spark the team's try-scoring spree, will stand-in captain Will Genia will be the general of this battle. The pack should also dominate, but the focus would still be on the front row of Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau and James Slipper.
For the United States: Without inspirational leader Todd Clever, scrumhalf Tim Usasz will be under pressure to lift his team to the same heights they achieved against Ireland and in the win over Russia.
Head to head: Any player that goes up against Australian icon Quade Cooper have his work cut out, which is why American flyhalf Nese Malifa will be in the spotlight. There are many other interesting battles across the field, but none as critical as the battle of the captains - Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia against Eagles No.9 Usasz.
1999: Australia won 55-19, Limerick (World Cup pool match)
1990: Australia won 67-9, Brisbane
1987: Australia won 47-12, Brisbane (World Cup pool match)
1983: Australia won 49-3, Sydney
1976: Australia won 24-12, Los Angeles
1912: Australia won 12-8, Berkeley
Prediction: Some bookmakers have opted to suspend betting on an Australian win, because it is a certainty and just giving money away. It is just a matter of the margin and given the quality of the American team (yes, it is a second string selection Eddie!), anything less than a 50-point victory margin will be disappointing for the Wallabies. Maybe the expected rain and wind will hamper the Aussies. Still, Australia by 60 points or more.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Ben McCalman, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Pat McCabe.
United States: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Colin Hawley, 13 Tai Enosa, 12 Junior Sifa, 11 Kevin Swiryn, 10 Nese Malifa, 9 Tim Usasz (captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Pat Danahy, 6 Inaki Basauri, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Scott LaValla, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Brian McClenahan, 17 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 18 Louis Stanfill, 19 Nic Johnson, 20 Mike Petri, 21 Roland Suniula, 22 Chris Wyles.
Date: Friday, September 23
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 20.30 (08.30 GMT)
Expected weather: The notorious Cook Strait looks set to unleash another storm on the tournament - with rain and winds predicted. High of 14°C, low of 8°C.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
AFP & rugby365.com
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