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Rugby World Cup: Australia hanging by a thread

Australia's hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals are still alive after they saw off Portugal 34-14 in St Etienne on Sunday.

The Wallabies laboured to victory with another unconvincing display, but did score five tries to ensure that they picked up a bonus point which means Fiji have to earn a point from their clash with Portugal next weekend to progress along with likely Pool C winners Wales.

In truth there is not too much hope left for Eddie Jones and his players after a dismal set of performances in France and all they can do is wait and see how Fiji perform next Sunday in Toulouse.

WhatFiji v Portugal
WhereStadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
When05:00 (AEST), Monday 9th October 2023
How to watchStan Sport
OddsFiji 1.01, Portugal 17.00, Tie 51.00

Even Portugal pose some problems

A bonus-point win over Portugal was an absolute necessity if Australia wanted to retain any hopes of making it through to the knockout stages of the tournament, but even the Pool C minnows gave the Wallabies something to think about.

Pedro Bettencourt's 11th-minute try gave the Wolves a 7-3 lead on Sunday and only when the same player was sent to the sin-bin did Australia cut loose, with Richie Arnold, Dave Porecki and Angus Bell all crossing while Portugal were a man down.

However, having claimed a 24-7 lead by half-time, Jones' side then failed to press home their advantage after the interval, with yellow cards shown to both Matt Faessler and Samu Kerevi giving Portugal renewed hope of making a game of it, which they did when Rafael Simoes touched down.

A late Marika Koroibete try made sure of the win for the Wallabies, but it was far from a convincing display against a side they should be expected to sweep aside.

Jones believes in a bright future

Jones is sure to come under huge pressure when the dust settles on the tournament in France, but having opted to go with a relatively inexperienced squad, he is certain that the long-term prospects are good.

He told reporters: "What am I pleased with? When I look at the squad and I look at the number of players that have improved individually, then I am really pleased. A lot of these players have really bright futures, as this team does.

"If we keep sticking at it, keep working hard, keep focusing on what's important, then we will be a good team."

Whether Jones will be around to oversee what he expects to be an upturn in fortunes is highly debatable.

Since his re-appointment as Wallabies head coach, Jones has seen his side lose seven of the nine games they have played, with their only wins coming against Georgia and Portugal at the World Cup.

Rugby Championship losses highlighted issues

Long before the World Cup got underway it was clear that Australia would struggle to be contenders in the latter stages.

Their Rugby Championship campaign saw them loses three out of three, going down heavily to both New Zealand and South Africa, while also being beaten at home by Argentina.

A three-point loss to the All Blacks in early August hinted at better, before a warm-up fixture saw the thrashed 41-17 by World Cup hosts France.

When an error-strewn performance saw them lose a vital World Cup Pool C game 22-15 to Fiji, the Wallabies' backs really were up against the wall and their reaction was possibly the most worrying aspect of their approach.

Faced with an almost must-win encounter with Wales, Australia crumpled to a record 40-6 loss in Lyon, being totally outplayed and outfought by a Welsh side who showed no mercy, scoring three tries to none.

That loss really did highlight just how far the Wallabies have fallen from being one of the top sides in world rugby, how long it will take, and under whom a recovery takes place, remains to be seen.

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