Two defeats in a row in France, including a record loss to Wales, have left Australia despondent. Their Rugby World Cup future is out of their hands. All they can do is finish the pool phase in a manner to which their fans would like to become re-accustomed.
Eddie Jones has made three personnel changes to Australia’s starting XV, bringing in Fraser McReight, Izaia Perese and Lalakai Foketi. Perese, on his Rugby World Cup debut, will partner his Waratahs team-mate Lalakai Foketi in midfield for the first time in a test match.
Portugal have already demonstrated that they will not roll over easily. They gave Wales a bigger scare than the final 28-8 scoreline might suggest in their opening Pool C match in Nice two weeks ago.
And Patrice Lagisquet’s side then came agonisingly close to their first-ever Rugby World Cup victory in their second tournament, as Raffaele Storti’s brace of tries gave them an 18-13 lead against Georgia last weekend, before Tengizi Zamtaradze’s late try levelled the scores. A missed conversion and a missed penalty later, and the match ended in a dramatic 18-18 draw.
Lagisquet has made four changes, all in the pack, to his starting XV for this match against Australia. David Costa earns his first start of RWC 2023 at loose-head; Martim Belo returns to partner Jose Madeira in the second-row; and David Wallis and Thibault de Freitas join Nicolas Martins in back row.
FIXTURE: Australia v Portugal
GROUND: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne (41,965)
KICK-OFF: 17:45 local time (GMT+2)
This is the first meeting between the two sides in test rugby.
For all the wrong reasons, Australia’s last outing against Wales is a lead weight on the rubber sheet of rugby memory.
The Wallabies have won only once since Eddie Jones returned to the head coach’s role, but no loss will have hurt quite as badly as the 40-6 loss in Lyon, as Wales scored 33 unanswered points to take the game out of reach, and leave the Australians’ proud record of reaching the knockout phase of every tournament hanging by a thread.
For Portugal, meanwhile, that so-near, so-far draw against Georgia will bring mixed emotions.
KEY TALKING POINT
Whether - and how - Australia can pick themselves up after that loss to Wales. A win here will help, but it’s the performance rather than the result that matters. A generous slice of bravura will at least give the fans in the stands and back home something to cheer about.
Marika Koroibete v Raffaele Storti. There’s no doubting the ability of Australia’s Koroibete - who has won the prestigious John Eales medal twice, first in 2019 and again in 2022. Portugal’s Storti, meanwhile, is one of the breakout stars of the tournament - whose ‘overnight’ international success has been 20 matches, and 15 tries, in the making.
James Slipper will run out for his 21st Rugby World Cup match here, surpassing George Gregan’s 16-year-old record for tournament appearances. He will also equal Wales and British and Irish Lions international Gethin Jenkins’ record of caps for a prop, with 134 and close the gap to Gregan’s overall Wallabies’ record to five.
Nika Amashukeli (Georgia). So far, Amashukeli - in his first tournament - has been the most lenient of the referees on show. He’s shown just one yellow card and blown for a penalty just 29 times in his two outings.
AUSTRALIA Andrew Kellaway; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Ben Donaldson, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, David Porecki (captain), James Slipper; Nick Frost, Richard Arnold; Tom Hooper, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini
Replacements: Matt Faessler, Blake Schoupp, Pone Fa’amausili, Robert Leota, Josh Kemeny, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Carter Gordon, Suli Vunivalu
PORTUGAL Nuno Sousa Guedes; Raffaele Storti, Pedro Bettencourt, Tomás Appleton (captain), Rodrigo Marta; Jerónimo Portela, Samuel Marques; David Costa, Mike Tadjer, Diogo Hasse Ferreira; José Madeira, Martim Belo; David Wallis, Nicolas Martins, Thibault de Freitas
Replacements: Francisco Fernandes, Duarte Diniz, Francisco Bruno, Steevy Cerqueira, Rafael Simões, João Belo, Joris Moura, Manuel Cardoso Pinto