September 28, 2019 / 8:40 AM / 19 days ago

Australia circle the wagons for clash with confident Wales

TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia will look to channel their anger at Reece Hodge’s ban into their performance when they play Wales in this weekend’s Rugby World Cup Pool D blockbuster, coach Michael Cheika said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool D - Australia v Fiji - Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan - September 21, 2019 Australia head coach Michael Cheika before the match REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

Reprising a theme from his press conference on Friday when he said there was a bit of “us against them” around the winger’s three-match suspension for a high tackle, Cheika said he hoped his team would use the emotion to fire their performance.

“When you feel hard-done-by and one of your players is so upset because he’s not playing ... you can make a meaning to it,” he told reporters at Tokyo Stadium after confirming Australia would not be appealing the ban.

“If you love the game and you’re in the World Cup and you’re representing your country, you want to have a bit of (emotion) going,” he added.

“It can make you do things that maybe you didn’t think you could do and this will be a great canvas for us to show that we can do a few things that people don’t expect us to do.”

Cheika also returned to another of his earlier lines about Six Nations champions Wales being favourites to beat the twice World Cup winners for only the second time in 15 matches on Sunday.

The first win came in Cardiff last November when the home side edged a tight match to snap a 13-march losing streak against the Wallabies.

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards said he thought Sunday’s match could be another close one.

“I think there will be more points than 9-6, but history tells you there have been a lot of one-score games between us and Australia,” the uncompromising Englishman said.

“That’s why our discipline is so important. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s another one-score game and hopefully, it goes to Wales.”

Cheika and Edwards agreed that the history of the fixture would not matter much at kickoff on Sunday.

“Each game is a different entity,” said Edwards. “Let’s get it on. These are two top teams and equally matched having it out in the pool games. Hopefully, it will be a good advert for the game of rugby.”

With Fiji having been upset by Uruguay in their second match, the winner of Sunday’s match is likely to top Pool D and enjoy the easier potential passage through the knockout stages.

Again, neither man was in much mood to contemplate any permutations beyond Sunday with Cheika returning to a favourite mantra.

“It’s about understanding that the next game’s the most important no matter what, and it’s the only one that really counts,” he said.

“You look at the World Cup, I’m pretty sure no one’s won it losing a pool game.”

Reporting by Jill Gralow, writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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