Adam Ashley-Cooper insists that Australia will not get ahead of themselves after dumping England out of the World Cup and underlining their own title credentials.
The Wallabies return to Twickenham on Saturday for a Pool A decider against Wales with the winners are likely to secure a last-eight clash against Scotland or Japan, while the losers face a probable appointment with South Africa.
“In every game we play we build on that self-belief. There is a lot of it in the team, but we haven’t won anything yet,” Wallabies wing Ashley-Cooper said.
“We are gaining a lot of confidence with the wins, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We have got a big Test match against Wales coming up, and then a quarter-final after that.
“We all want to be world champions and it is a matter of improving each day. It was a special win, but as soon as Monday comes we will be preparing for Wales.
“They play an expansive game off good ball from the forwards and I am expecting both teams to throw the ball around and really use the combinations both teams have in their back-lines.”
Wales have lost their 10 Tests against Australia – seven of those defeats were by six points or less – which suggests the Wallabies have a clear edge.
Ashley-Cooper added: “We have had a good run against Wales, but anything can happen. A lot of results in this tournament have proved that. From my World Cup experience, finishing top of your pool is very important.”
Fly-half Bernard Foley amassed 28 points, including two tries, while centre Matt Giteau administered the final blow by touching down during the closing minutes as England were crushed 33-13.
“We knew their backs were against the wall and we needed to match their physicality and that desperation,” Ashley-Cooper said. “The key to the game was starting well and we certainly did that. We got a lot of momentum and we closed out a very good win. At the moment we are a good team, but we want to be a great team.”
England’s failed World Cup unfolded against a backdrop of disquiet over the influence of Andy Farrell and Sam Burgess’ presence in the squad.
Reacting to the 33-13 defeat by Australia that dumped the hosts out of the tournament, head coach Stuart Lancaster declared there is “no division in the coaching team” and stated that the final decision in picking the side was his alone.
However, it is known that misgivings were harboured within the squad over the power wielded by backs coach Farrell, both tactically and in selection.
It was felt that the rugby league great and not Lancaster was in effect running England. The determination to include Burgess in the World Cup squad and then name him in the matchday 23 was divisive and Farrell was seen as the driving force behind the 26-year-old’s elevation.
Outside the camp, Burgess’ rapid promotion 10 months after switching codes from rugby league has been viewed with amazement and appeared to have been based on one solid yet unspectacular display against France in the first warm-up match.
Henry Slade excelled during the same game yet was never under serious consideration for the 28-25 defeat to Wales.
The management repeatedly pointed to Burgess’ performance during the gruelling 10-week summer training camp to justify his participation, but their faith was not shared throughout the playing squad, it is understood.
Luther Burrell, an ever present under Lancaster over the last two years, lost out on selection for the final 31 to Burgess and there was sympathy for a player who had been overlooked because of the perceived aura and big game experience of his rival.
Spotlight does have to go back on Rob Andrew. In situ at RFU since 2006. Key in appointing Lancaster. Earning over £400k a year.
— Simon Austin (@sport_simon) October 3, 2015
When asked about the suggestion England were at odds internally over selection, Lancaster replied: “No. Let’s put that one to bed to start with. The decisions we make on selection are collective and they’re ultimately mine and my responsibility. There’s no division in the coaching team.”
The future of Lancaster and his assistants Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt are in grave doubt and the inquest will begin once the World Cup is over, although RFU chief Ian Ritchie has refused to outline a timescale or format for the review.
The position of Ritchie himself is equally precarious having appointed Lancaster and taken the bold step 12 months ago of awarding him and his lieutenants new contracts to run until 2020 despite the failure to win any silverware of note.
When asked if there would be change, Ritchie said: “Absolutely. We’ve spent a lot of time looking forward over the last two to three years and now we need to look at what we need to do next.
“But we need to be clear that this is not a time for knee-jerk reaction. It’s not a time to rush into things.”
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has warned his players they will need to up their game if they want to overcome France in next Sunday’s Pool D decider.
Schmidt’s side booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with a 16-9 win over Italy but a stodgy performance will have given the French encouragement ahead of the showdown in Cardiff.
The winners will finish top of the group and avoid the likely scenario of facing reigning champions New Zealand in the last eight.
“The French media have high expectations and so do the team,” Schmidt said. “It’s going to be incredibly hard for us to beat them. They are armed with more weaponry than what we saw today.
“It will be very difficult. We have to be more accurate than we were today. Physically they have players who are very, very powerful and that will make things difficult for us as well.
“I’ve watched their games and I’ll be doing a lot of analysis over the next 24 to 48 hours. We’ll come up with a plan and hopefully we can be more accurate in putting that in place than today.”
Ireland have enjoyed an excellent recent record against Les Bleus, winning two and drawing two of the last four meetings.
“It’s a timely reminder of where we need to be,” captain Paul O’Connell said. “France are an incredible side with incredible talent. They have size, physicality, skill and they play with a lot of passion as well.
“In recent years we’ve done well, we’ve had to produce massive performances to make those games tight. It’s a mountain of a challenge.”