Amid the doom and gloom in France around the Wallabies’ shock World Cup loss to Fiji, a shining light has been their lineout, spearheaded by new skipper Dave Porecki.
After two rounds of the World Cup Porecki leads the tournament statistics in lineout throws, nailing each of his 21 deliveries which is eight more than any other hooker.
Porecki, who became the Wallabies’ sixth captain of the year following a training injury to Will Skelton, was more concerned with the high-stakes match that lay ahead for his team.
“Everyone’s talking about how we’ve got an upcoming do-or-die game but it’s a World Cup so every game is do-or-die in my eyes and in the players’ eyes,” the 30-year-old Sydneysider said.
“We didn’t get it right (against Fiji) and we’ll get it right next week.”
The Wallabies were outplayed by Fiji in almost every facet in Saint-Etienne apart from the lineout which rattled the Pacific Islanders, particularly in the second half of the historic 22-15 defeat.
The absence of injured giant Skelton was felt through the loss of his carries and defence through the middle but the World Cup debut of athletic youngster Nick Frost meant Australia had two genuine jumpers.
Brumbies big man Frost, who missed the tournament-opening win over Georgia due to a troublesome ear injury, was a major disrupter to the Fijians, stealing four lineouts alone.
Richie Arnold was promoted from the bench to cover Skelton and while he had a mixed bag in general play and issues with discipline, he worked well in the lineout with Frost.
Arnold said another jumping option in the side was a trade-off to losing heavyweight Skelton, who doesn’t usually jump.
“When you lose Willy (Skelton) you lose that power, but obviously when another person comes in you have another jumping option,” Arnold said.
“So yeah, our lineout defence was good and also our lineout attack was good but we still lost the match.”
With Skelton still sidelined with a calf injury, Arnold and Frost will again team up against Wales, with fellow lock Matt Philip covering from the bench.
They are expecting Wales to play a more traditional, grinding game based on their set-piece.
Unbeaten through two rounds, the Welsh line-out was vulnerable against minnows Portugal, who they beat 28-8 in Nice.
Gatland said his team’s performance against Portugal “wasn’t pretty” but he was delighted they took maximum points to sit atop the Pool C table.
“Probably the lineout didn’t function as well as I would have liked and we were a bit lateral at times,” he said.
“When we were direct and in contact we looked comfortable.”