Matt Toomua in action against Wales. Pic: Getty Images
Matt Toomua in action against Wales. Pic: Getty Images

Wallabies very own ‘grand final week’ looms

Veteran prop James Slipper is convinced the Wallabies can find the "fast-start" button they urgently need to stay on their Rugby World Cup tightrope with a posse of desperate one-chance players.

You might brand many in the starting side to face Uruguay in Oita on Saturday as fringe candidates for Australia's No.1 side at this tournament but for the fact so many have been frontliners before.

A first Cup start at this tournament for back-rower Jack Dempsey, centre Tevita Kuridrani, 98-Test veteran Rob Simmons, hooker Jordan Uelese and exciting debutant Jordan Petaia has raised the intensity in that group.

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It might easily be their only starting job at the tournament or the springboard to vital roles in the last pool clash against Georgia that will be a dress rehearsal for a sudden-death quarter-final.

Having Dempsey and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto so intent on setting the front-foot tone early with some jolting ball-carries from the backrow is just what the side needs after the slow-start handbrakes to trail Fiji (21-12) and Wales (26-8).

Inside centre Matt Toomua played down any notion of a siege mentality just because of Reece Hodge's controversial suspension and the crazy call to penalise Samu Kerevi for bludgeoning through a Welsh tackler.

"I wouldn't say that's the feeling within camp in the sense that we're thinking everyone is against us," Toomua said.

"I don't think either have had a direct impact or effect on the result of games which is the main thing and you've seen (similar) in other games."

The clear-headed, upbeat approach to a match that should be a 30 or 40-point result was delivered most strongly by Slipper.

James Slipper will be eager to make an impact. Pic: Getty Images
James Slipper will be eager to make an impact. Pic: Getty Images

"We are disappointed with that Wales loss, so it's essentially grand final week for us with having to win against a Uruguay side that has improved in every area," prop Slipper said.

Slipper played in the destabilising pool loss to Ireland in Auckland at the 2011 World Cup when Australia bounced back to win a quarter-final epic over South Africa.

He feels the regrouping qualities are strong in captain Michael Hooper's team.

"There are definitely players in this team who can handle that really well," Slipper said.

"A loss is not something you want because you want to go through undefeated to win the World Cup.

"It's a bit of an obstacle for us but at same time we are pretty happy with the way things are going ... training hard and, in patches, we are pretty good on the field.

Matt Toomua is keen to get onto Uruguay. Pic: Getty Images
Matt Toomua is keen to get onto Uruguay. Pic: Getty Images

"We plan to learn from that loss.

"A strong start is a big help and it's important we play a good game for momentum going into the rest of the tournament."

Dempsey's strong, agile metres as a ball runner were instrumental in the win over the All Blacks in Brisbane in 2017 and more of the same will lift his stocks for the tournament.

"As ball-carrying backrowers you have more of a say than a prop because you can get the ball in your hands early and set the tone early," Dempsey said.

"Lukhan and I talked about it when we played together in the Samoa game before the tournament as well.

"We are after a fast start so I'm looking to get involved and assert myself."



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