Wales have been haunted by injuries during the World Cup and they face having to call up at least one more player this week ahead of next Saturday’s quarter-final against South Africa, with Liam Williams suffering a suspected recurrence of the foot injury that put him out of action for three months leading into the tournament.
The Lions centre Jamie Roberts was taken off for a head-injury assessment in a brutally physical match that left Australia with two key players, David Pocock and Israel Folau, injured, but the Wales captain, Sam Warburton, is confident of making a second successive semi-final.
“We have a number of experienced players in the side who are used to big matches,” said Warburton. “We have had three tough matches in the pool and we will be battle-hardened. The players feel comfortable in this sort of environment and we know we can beat South Africa having done so last November in Cardiff a few months after one play cost us over there.”
Wales were 12-6 down in the second half when they had a succession of penalties and Australia were reduced to 13 men, with Will Genia and Dean Mumm sent to the sin-bin within three minutes of each other. Warburton said, two weeks after his England counterpart, Chris Robshaw, was criticised for not going for goal against Wales, that he had opted not to kick the points because he felt a try was needed to beat Australia.
“I think you have to give credit to them for defending like that,” he said. “When you spend that amount of time near the opponents’ line you have to score a try, and we failed to. I just felt we needed more than a kick and we came very close.”
The Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, said: “Australia were courageous and threw their bodies on the line. We were held up over the line three times. I think Dan Biggar’s missed penalty before half-time was important: it would have taken us into half-time at 9-9.
“We have seven days to recover before we face South Africa. They have gone back to the tried and tested, and we have come up against that in the past. It will be massively physical up front and they like to have one-out runners off the scrum-half. We know we have a chance of beating them, but it looks as if Liam has injured his foot again.”
The Australia coach, Michael Cheika, said he was delighted with the victory, but that the performance meant they had a lot to work on before facing Scotland here a week on Sunday. “We showed a different type of game to the ones previously and revealed a new skin,” he said. “I am very proud of the players for the resilience and intent they showed, but there were imperfections in our game that we need to work on in the next week.
“David [Pocock] has a bang on his calf, but he seemed OK afterwards in the dressing-room. Israel suffered another bang on his ankle, but we could not bring him off, and the signs are the same as they were last week [when he passed a late fitness test ahead of the match]. Wales are a very good side, who had a few tricks up their sleeve, and we had to give everything.”