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Wales seek end to Australia jinx

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Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards says his team must believe Australia's winning run can be stopped. Reuters/Rebecca Naden

When the draw was made, Pool A was dubbed the 'pool of death' as it featured hosts England, Wales and Australia. But as the final round of games approach, there's no more tension. That went last week when Australia thrashed England to qualify for the last eight and dismiss the hosts. Australia take on Wales on Saturday for Pool A bragging rights.


The clash will determine the winner of Pool A.

Both sides have already qualified for the last eight from a group which also contained the hosts England as well as Uruguay and Fiji.

England were dispatched from the tournament last weekend after Australia beat them 33-13 at Twickenham.

It was a double blow for England who at a stroke became the first host nation to fail to emerge from the pool stages. It was also the first time England hadn't qualified for the quarter-finals.

Stuart Lancaster and his skipper Chris Robshaw both offered profuse apologies for a debacle in which they squandered a 10-point lead to lose 25-22 to Wales and then the annihilation at the hands of Australia.

Bernard Foley scored 28 of his side's points in a fly-half masterclass which put the other teams on alert that Michael Cheika's men are gaining the sheen of champions.

Irrespective of Saturday's result at Twickenham, both sides will fancy their chances in the quarters. The prize for the winner will be avoiding the Pool B victors South Africa who have recovered from their opening day humiliation against Japan with three straight wins.

The omens don't look good for the Welsh. They've lost their last 10 games against the Wallabies.

"Let's make no bones about it, Australia have had the upper hand on us for the last few years, and we are pretty determined to bring our competitive edge out," said assistant coach Shaun Edwards at Twickenham on the eve of the encounter.

"This is a huge game for us. We are playing against the current champions of the southern hemisphere, a team that has been in fantastic form recently."

He added: "Any team that can beat New Zealand — which Australia did in the summer to win the Rugby Championship — and you are talking about an incredibly formidable force.

"They just beat England 33-13, who are a very strong team, by 20 points, so we know what we are coming up against."

But Cheika dismissed the favourites' tag for his side. He said he expected a hard painful game against Wales, another tough battle in the quarter-final against either South Africa, Scotland or Japan.

"I don't subscribe to the theory of winning the pool to get an easier run because that's disrespecting the opposition and that's not what we are about," said the 48-year-old Australian. "We just want to really do our best against Wales and it will be a big game."

Of the Welsh losing streak, Edwards said: "I've coached teams who have won 10 games on the trot, and when it has come to the 11th game I've said 'forget about the last 10 lads, because this is a totally different day', and I will be saying exactly the same. We feel that we have had equal preparation time.

"It's pretty well known that the northern hemisphere teams sometimes only have two weeks together before playing against the southern hemisphere lads, but that's not the case in rugby World Cup years.

"It would be a very good achievement to finish top of the pool, but we are a little more ambitious than that," said Edwards, who was a member of Wales's coaching staff when they lost 9-8 to France in the World Cup semi-final in Auckland four years ago.