Australia coach Eddie Jones believes high expectations are his team’s biggest danger going into what should be a relatively comfortable World Cup Pool A match against Romania at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Wallabies have played Romania twice before for two wins, racking up margins of nearly 50 points both times, and Jones is wary of public belief that the same thing will happen again could hamper his side.
“Historically in the World Cup there are games like this where the top-ranked teams go in with that sort of attitude, play like millionaires and you end up having 80 minutes of a real slug-fest,” said Jones.
“We’ve got to go out there really hard early, make sure we set the platform of the game, do some good, direct rugby early on, make sure we go forward and then that will give us the chance to use the ball.
“We’ve just got to be really focused on the simple things early the game that will create the rest of the game for us.”
Romania’s traditional forward strength has been sapped slightly by the loss of Biarritz tighthead prop Petru Balan, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury.
That means 23-year-old Petrisor Toderasc will face Australia’s relatively inexperienced Al Baxter.
Jones expects the Romanians to have a style of play similar to the French, as most of the country’s top players are based in France for their club rugby.
“They play very much like a French team: A very strong mauling side, very strong at the pick-and-go, their backs play with considerable width when they use the ball,” said Jones.
And the Aussie coach is not making the mistake of targeting a bonus point before the game has even kicked off, saying he is more interested in simply winning and producing a good performance.
“If we win all our games in the pool we’re going to qualify,” said Jones.
“Eddie O’Sullivan made a good point after the Ireland-Romania game last week. He said that while bonus points are handy you’re more focused on performance.”
Jones has made just one change from the team who beat Argentina in their opening game, bringing in Daniel Vickerman at lock for the injured David Giffin.
Meanwhile, Romania coach Bernard Charreyre is hoping his players rise to the occasion of playing the reigning world champions on their home turf.
“The Romanian players know they play against one of the best teams in the world and if we want to prove Romanian rugby still exists we should play one of our best matches,” said Charreyre.
“It is a great honour to play against Australia. If we want to respect Australia we want to make a very good game,” he said.
“Making a good game would be putting pressure on the Australians, on the touchline, the scrums and rucks to prove Romanian rugby still exists and to play 80 minutes with the same determination.”
He also warned against being overawed by the occasion.
“The biggest danger for our team is just to take a look at the Australian team. When the Australians play, we have to participate.”
Charreyre has shuffled his pack considerably after the loss to Ireland.
Apart from the loss of Balan, he has also dropped tighthead prop Marcel Socaciu for Silviu Florea.
Cristian Petre has moved from number eight to play at lock in place of Augustin Petrechei, with George Chiriac shifting from the blindside flank to the back of the scrum. Marius Niculai, a reserve against Ireland, will start on the blindside.
Australia: M Rogers, W Sailor, M Burke, E Flatley, J Roff; S Larkham, G Gregan (captain); B Young, B Cannon, A Baxter, D Vickerman, N Sharpe, G Smith, P Waugh, D Lyons.
Replacements: J Paul, B Darwin, J Harrison, M Cockbain, M Giteau, S Mortlock, L Tuqiri.
Romania: D Dumbrava; G Brezoianu, V Maftei, R Gontineac (captain), C Sauan; I Tofan, L Sirbu; P Toderasc, R Mavrodin, S Florea, S Socol, C Petre, M Niculai, O Tonita, G Chiriac.
Replacements: C Popescu, M Socaciu, M Tudori, B Tudor, C Podea, M Vioreanu, I Teodorescu.