Rugby World Cup 2011

Irish loss boosted Wallabies

2011-10-10 13:21
Robbie Deans (Getty Images)

Auckland - Australia's shock loss to Ireland in the pool phase of the Rugby World Cup had been a harsh lesson for the Wallabies but coach Robbie Deans said the experience had been vital in helping his young side defeat South Africa in the quarter-finals.

Deans, speaking after checking-in to the hotel where his team will prepare for Saturday's semi-final against New Zealand at Eden Park, said his team could have been heading home had they not been put through the ringer by the Irish in their second Pool C match.

"You are watching a young group mature ... we try to take the meaning out of every learning experience and I think that was evident yesterday," the New Zealander told a news conference on Monday.

"If you look at our experience against the Irish, I've got no doubt that if we had got through that encounter with relative ease we would have suffered yesterday because we wouldn't have been as well prepared.

"They were as mentally prepared as they could be because of the Irish defeat."

The Tri-Nations champion Wallabies were forced to fight a rearguard action for much of an incredibly intense encounter with the world champions in Wellington before emerging 11-9 victors on Sunday.

"That was a very good performance from the Springboks," Deans said.

"You don't want to underestimate that, it was a very experienced side and there were some players who were at the top of their games.

"It was their last performance, they knew it was their last performance, and they played out of their skins.

"The Springboks really upped the ante and put our blokes in a vice and they came through that test," he added.

"We're delighted to be in the semis and we'll bring some of that forward with us."

Deans said it was inevitable that such an encounter would take a physical toll on the players but as far as injuries were concerned, he seemed reasonably confident he would have most of his party fit to face the All Blacks.

Centre Pat McCabe had suffered a "couple of stingers" to his shoulder but had "recovered well", while fullback Kurtley Beale (hamstring) and prop Sekope Kepu (ankle) would both have scans.

"It's very much mental at this time of year but there are obviously some physical realities with that," he said.

"It was pretty evident that that was an exchange that was out of the ordinary. We'll recover and ... we'll make sure we get back to where we need to be before we put any physical demands on the group, and we'll be ready to go at the weekend."

Australia have played New Zealand only twice at the World Cup in the 1991 and 2003 tournaments. Both meetings were semi-finals and both won by the Wallabies.

"We know each other well as teams," said Deans.

"There's no greater history than that between Australian and New Zealand. There's quite a bit of history at World Cup time as well, it's going to be great."

The Wallabies have not won at the stadium since 1986, however, although Deans thought that precedent was one reporters could safely ignore.

"It's the first occasion we've played them in a World Cup semi-final at Eden Park, so there's no history there," he said.


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