RELIEF: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika (left) and England boss Eddie Jones at the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw.
RELIEF: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika (left) and England boss Eddie Jones at the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw. Dave Rogers - World Rugby

Wallabies miss World Cup pool of death

A DREAM draw has helped the Wallabies avoid another dip in a pool of death at the 2019 Rugby World Cup but coach Michael Cheika says complacency won't be tolerated in their campaign.

The draw for the World Cup in Japan was held in Kyoto and in comparison to their tough pool in the last World Cup, the Wallabies were grouped with a far less frightening Wales and Georgia in pool D.

The group will also contain two yet-to-be-determined qualifiers from Oceania (Fiji, Tonga or Samoa) the Americas, which will be between the USA, Canada and Uruguay.

Cheika wasn't buying into it but the result of the draw is, by any measure, a good one for Australia. Compared to 2015, when Australia, England and Wales had to fight for two spots in the playoffs, the Welsh haven't beaten Australia in 12 attempts since 2009 and Georgia are plucky minnow who've never beaten a major Test nation.

Additionally, the Wallabies landed on the other side of the draw from both New Zealand and South Africa, who are both in pool B. That means Australia would not meet the Kiwis or the Springboks in a quarter-final.

England, meanwhile, were again drawn in the hardest group. This time they'll have France and Argentina in their pool - meaning one of the three will not make the quarters.

Just as Cheika dismissed the danger of the pool of death in 2015, the Wallabies coach said there was no good or bad draw in a World Cup.

"Truth be told, no matter how the balls got pulled out, you know its going to be about getting it right, turning up and making sure you play the best you can,” Cheika said.

"I am saying that genuinely. You come with a really open mind.

"That's what people would have said maybe four years ago at the same time, when we ended up with Wales and England in the same pool. But it turned out that was a good formula for us.”

With wins against England and Wales in the pool stages, the Wallabies went into the playoffs with confidence and made the final.

Asked if a tough pool was better than having comparatively "easy” games against lesser-ranked teams, Cheika said there was huge danger in that line of thinking.

"They won't be easy games. Everyone gets asked these questions but when you are out there singing the anthem, it is 0-0 and all bets are off. The minute you stop thinking like that is the minute you are dead in the water,” he said.

"It's the old cliche: one game at a time. That is genuinely what it is about. You have to deal with each game as it comes. That is the deal of tournament play.

"You don't forecast or predict what's going to happen. You don't gamble on anything. You just look at what's in front of you and do your absolute best in that one and go from there.”

Australia play Wales regularly - and beat them regularly - and will meet them again in November.

Preparing to play against Georgia will be a bit more difficult with the European nation not a regular on the Test circuit.

They're no pushovers, though, and they showed that by qualified for the 2019 World Cup automatically through their performances in the last tournament. Los Lelos beat Tonga and Namibia and did credibly against the All Blacks to only lose 43-10.

"Australians probably won't know a lot about them but they're being coached by a few Kiwi lads over ether and they are on the up and up,” Cheika said.

"They have strong forward play and they have some gas out wide and between now and 2019 I suppose we will learn a bit more about them.”

They're coached by former Chiefs assistant Milton Haig, but whether Georgia will be as strong in 2019 as they were in 2015 is a big question. Inspirational captain Mamuka Gordgodze retired from Test rugby earlier this year.

Cheika said while the focus was briefly on the World Cup this week, his mind remains firmly on the job of winning silverware between now and 2019.

"World Cups are important, it's the pinnacle and we are planning for that but not to the excuse of not performing on our day to day, which is the pursuit of the Bledisloe and the Rugby Championship,” Cheika said.

"We have got big Test matches coming up in June, and we are really eager to get back on the ground with the players.”


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