SHIZUOKA, 11 Oct - After labouring to victory against a resilient Georgia side in the driving rain and gusting wind in Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Friday evening, Australia head coach Michael Cheika wasted no time in putting the focus firmly on England ahead of the two sides' probable quarter-final in Oita next weekend.
While the Wallabies have come through tough pool D challenges against Fiji, Wales and now Georgia, England's final pool stage game against France, due to be played on Saturday, was called off because of Typhoon Hagibis, leaving them free to travel south early.
"I saw that he (England head coach Eddie Jones) was saying that would be an advantage and that the typhoon gods were smiling on him, so I suppose they better win," Cheika said after watching his side eventually see off Georgia 27-8. "They’ve had the best preparation according to their coach, so they better go out there and win."
Early mind games or not, Cheika will know his side have plenty to work on before taking on Jones's men. A strong set-piece and moments of brilliance in the loose could not hide a spluttering performance from the two-time world champions.
After a dominant but ultimately frustrating opening quarter for the Wallabies, they finally got on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute. To no one's surprise, livewire Matt To'omua was largely responsible.
Starting at fly-half for the first time in 12 months, the play-maker broke clear from his own half, starting a wave of green and gold that ended with scrum-half Nic White wriggling over from a metre out. It gave the Wallabies the lead their territory and possession, if not their accuracy, deserved.
But just as Australia appeared to be building some momentum, their recurring problem with ill-discipline returned. First, hooker Tolu Latu was pinged for yet another high tackle, giving Georgia full-back Soso Matiashvili the easiest of chances in front of the posts after 27 minutes. Seven minutes later number eight Isi Naisarani received Australia's third yellow card of the tournament, again catching the referee's attention for a high hit.
"That is what killed us tonight. We were on the front foot and our skills were not our level," Wallaby centre Marika Koroibete said.
A score of 10-3 at the break was scant reward for a half in which the Wallabies boasted 79 per cent possession and 85 per cent of territory. In the first 34 minutes alone Georgia were forced to make a staggering 124 tackles.
Grizzled veteran Mamuka Gorgodze was at the heart of the Lelos' effort as he put his body relentlessly on the line for his country for the 75th and final time.
For much of Gorgodze's career, his team have enjoyed dominance in the scrum but it was a different story in Shizuoka. Again and again Australia's powerhouse front five squeezed Georgia back, denying the Europeans one of their traditional strengths. The pressure was so severe that Georgia's coach, Milton Haig, replaced his entire front row with just 50 minutes on the clock.
Despite this Australia struggled to make such dominance pay until the final minutes. Georgia's continually aggressive line speed forced handling error after handling error. Even the Wallabies' second try came from a dropped ball - though that should take nothing away from winger Mariaka Koroibete, whose footwork and natural speed produced one of the standout individual tries of this or any World Cup.
The Wallabies' towering second-row Izack Rodda also shone, the 2.02m man stealing an impressive three lineouts, enough to earn the Player of the Match award. But when Georgia did for once secure their own lineout ball midway through the second half, they struck. Swift hands from fly-half Lasha Khmaladze set winger Alexander Todua free for a popular touchdown.
"We'll keep fighting until the end, even when the odds are against us," said Georgia head coach Milton Haig, who bows out now after eight years in the job.
The Georgia score seemed to spur Australia back on to the front foot as they scored two tries in the final six minutes, The first came from a driving maul before second-row Rob Simmons, on for his 100th cap, combined with replacement prop Taniela Tupou to send veteran scrum-half Will Genia, pictured above, diving over.
For Cheika though, thoughts immediately turned towards next week and the defining match of his coaching career.
"It doesn’t matter who’s had a week off, who’s had a week on, who’s been resting, who hasn’t," he said. "It’ll all come down to what happens on kick-off."