The history that says the Wallabies can pull off World Cup revival after Fiji defeat

Fri, Sep 22, 2023, 12:02 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
James Slipper backs the Wallabies to rebound from their Fiji defeat. Photo: Getty Images
James Slipper backs the Wallabies to rebound from their Fiji defeat. Photo: Getty Images

When James Slipper talks about teams bouncing back from World Cup defeats, it’s not wishful thinking. It comes from experience 

It’s this knowledge that the prop will look to impart to the Wallabies squad as they prepare for a do-or-die clash with Wales.

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As only the third Wallaby to go to four World Cups, James Slipper’s history is littered with teams in similar positions turning a slow start into something special.

Slipper made his debut at the 2011 event in New Zealand, where three out of the four semi-finals dropped games in the group stages.

This included Australia, who lost to Ireland before going on to claim third.

Finalists France went one better, dropping back-to-back games against New Zealand and Tonga before fighting their way into the Final.

In 2019, the Springboks did something similar, losing to the All Blacks in their tournament opener before going on to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup at the end of the event.

He understands the importance of games like Sunday's. A win and they likely control their World Cup destiny. A loss and it's history for all the wrong reasons.

"Pressure can either make you thrive or it can hurt you," he explained to reporters.

"This is my third World Cup where I have lost a pool game but we’ve managed as a team to back it through the finals and do reasonably well. We haven’t won one which is another story but in terms of the pressure and anxiety of the group, it’s been dealt with pretty early in the week.

"You just have to name it how it is and call it out, it’s a must-win game for us, we all know that. It’s about performing and being comfortable in your preparation and own game that you can go out there and deliver it. At the same time we’re feeling pressure, the other team is feeling pressure as well."

There is recent history that can provide a glimmer of hope, albeit in another sport.

The Matildas' group stage form in this year's Women's Football World Cup mirrors the Wallabies, having started with a strong win over Ireland before dropping a game to Nigeria.

From here, they won clutch games against Olympic champions Canada and Denmark before the famous penalty shootout win over France.

"We watched a couple [Matildas] games as a team," Slipper said. "I remember we were in Darwin watching the penalty shootout (against France).

"It was a special moment for Australian sport to play a World Cup at home with the pressure of the nation behind you and they did such a good job.

"We were motivated by it and what you saw was a lot of momentum the girls built throughout the World Cup and it’s something we want to do. We haven’t had that luxury, the pressure’s right on us but we’re digging in right now."

Eddie Jones' attitude sums it up as he prepares for a massive game on Monday.

"I'd say that we're alive, mate. All you’ve got to be is alive. If we beat Wales on Sunday we're alive and that's all we've got to be," he said.

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