Harry Souttar marked his international debut with a brace and Jamie Maclaren notched a hat-trick as Australia settled for a 5-0 win over minnows Nepal in World Cup qualifying.

Born in Aberdeen, defender Souttar changed his allegiance to his mother's homeland earlier this year and enjoyed a first appearance to savour at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

The Fleetwood Town centre-back repaid Graham Arnold's faith with a headed double after a pair of early finishes from Maclaren, who completed the scoring and his treble in the closing moments.

Australia's apparent reluctance to overexert themselves meant the expected avalanche of goals never truly arrived, though the Socceroos did move top of Group B, at least until Kuwait meet Jordan later on Thursday.

Kiran Chemjong's failure to grasp a Craig Goodwin shot gifted Maclaren the sixth-minute opener and the striker quickly doubled his tally, heading home after Rhyan Grant nodded Aziz Behich's cross back into the danger zone.

The towering Souttar was proving a nuisance at set-pieces and managed to stoop to meet Goodwin's corner for Australia's third in the 23rd minute.

A fourth would have followed on the stroke of half-time if not for the match officials, who disallowed a deflected Mathew Leckie effort for offside despite Ananta Tamang being responsible for the touch that deceived goalkeeper Chemjong.

There was no denying Souttar a double, though, as his 59th-minute header from Aaron Mooy's cross dribbled in off Dinesh Rajbanshi.

Arnold turned to his bench after the hour but no other Australian was able to add their name to the scoresheet against the world's 161st-ranked nation, leaving Maclaren to claim the matchball as he fired home in the 90th minute following Jackson Irvine's cushioned control.

What does it mean? Socceroos miss chance to further bolster goal difference

Kuwait, the team Australia brushed aside 3-0 last month, began the road to Qatar by putting seven past Nepal, so there were expectations for the Socceroos to fill their boots in the nation's capital.

The long distances many of Arnold's players covered en route to Australia can be considered a mitigating factor but the former Sydney FC boss will expect a greater degree of ruthlessness against Chinese Taipei next week, particularly as his team have gone goalless in four of eight games in 2019.

Maclaren makes case for more minutes

One man who did his job in attack was Melbourne City forward Maclaren.

Prolific at A-League level, he has found goals harder to come by in the international arena but can be pleased to have added three more to the one he notched at the Asian Cup in January.

Goals elude Goodwin

Unlike Maclaren, Saudi Arabia-based Goodwin let opportunities go begging too frequently.

The 27-year-old attempted five shots without scoring, a return that needs to improve if he is to be in contention for a starting berth on a more regular basis.

What's next?

Australia travel to Kaohsiung to meet bottom-placed Chinese Taipei on Tuesday, the same day as Nepal’s difficult date with Jordan in Amman.

Maybe Steve Smith is human after all? He proved England's nemesis throughout the Ashes, but Australia's talisman suffered a rare failure at the crease in a Sheffield Shield match on Thursday.

Making his first appearance in the Shield since leading the way with 774 runs as Australia retained the Ashes, Smith was dismissed for a duck at the Gabba in New South Wales' encounter with Queensland.

Coming in at 12-1 to partner David Warner, who endured an altogether different series in England, Smith was sent back to the pavilion without scoring from five balls when he flashed at a Cameron Gannon delivery.

Gannon dropped short and wide of off-stump but Smith failed to capitalise, sending an edge to Joe Burns at second slip.

It left New South Wales 14-2, with Moises Henriques losing his wicket two overs later having also failed to trouble the scorers.

With assistance from Nick Larkin, Warner (27 not out) managed to steady the ship and New South Wales ended day one on 50-3, 103 runs shy of Queensland's 153 all out.

Dane Haylett-Petty has backed Michael Cheika's approach of chopping and changing at the Rugby World Cup ahead of Australia's final Pool D match against Georgia on Friday.

Cheika has rotated his squad in Japan, having made far few alterations during the last World Cup in England four years ago.

The Wallabies head coach has made 10 changes to the starting line-up for the encounter with Georgia at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, which the two-time champions will start knowing they are already through to the quarter-finals.

Haylett-Petty says Cheika's selections are keeping the players on their toes as Australia prepare to face either England or France in the last eight.

The full-back said: "Cheik has, on purpose, picked a squad that's really competitive, and while we're really pushing each other to get better, we've been fighting for spots the whole way along

"He definitely picked and stuck a bit more in the past but that’s the strategy he's gone with and I do think it's working well.

"You've seen players given an opportunity and take that opportunity."

David Pocock will captain the side as Michael Hooper drops to the bench, with Jack Dempsey, Nic White, Matt To'omua, Kurtley Beale and Jordan Petaia retaining their places following a 45-10 thumping of Uruguay.

Australia look set to finish second behind Wales, who face Uruguay on Sunday.

For Georgia, scrum-half Gela Aprasidze replaces Vasil Lobzhanidze, while Beka Saginadze comes into the back row at the expense of Giorgi Tkhilaishvili following their 45-10 hammering at the hands of Fiji.

Georgia are second-bottom with just the one win in the tournament against Uruguay.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia - Matt To'omua

Toomua impressed after coming off the bench in the loss to Wales and made an impact from the start in the big win over Uruguay. He will switch from centre to fly-half and can pull the strings at number 10.

Georgia - Mamuka Gorgodze

Gorgodze will play his 15th World Cup match for Georgia, matching a record held by Merab Kvirikashvili. The veteran lock must prove he can still be a talisman in what could be his last appearance for his country. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first time Australia and Georgia have met in Test rugby.

- Georgia have alternated between victory and defeat in their last five World Cup matches - winning two and losing three.

- Australia have won all 18 of their World Cup matches against non-tier one nations, their average margin of victory in those games a mammoth 46 points.

- Georgia have scored their most points (57) and tries (eight) in a World Cup campaign, their previous records were 53 points (2015) and five tries (2007 and 2015 respectively).

Michael Cheika has been working on ways for Australia to limit the number of penalties they are conceding at the Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies comfortably defeated Uruguay 45-10 on Saturday but saw Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shown yellow cards for high tackles in the first half.

Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale were also penalised by referee Mathieu Reynal in Oita, while wing Reece Hodge missed the match due to a three-game ban for a reckless challenge on Peceli Yato in their Pool D opener against Fiji.

Australia conceded 12 penalties to Uruguay's five at the weekend. Cheika was unwilling to discuss the team's tackling technique after the match but has looked to address their discipline ahead of Friday's meeting with Georgia.

"We're addressing that, we've got some ideas on how we can be better at that," said the Wallabies boss.

"No matter how you see the picture, the penalties are real. So, you've got to do something because whether it's truth or perception, we're getting the arm raised against us and losing players to the bin for things that we shouldn't be.

"We've just got to lift our standards there, it's as simple as that."

Cheika has made 10 changes from the team that defeated Uruguay, with Hooper granted some rest with a place among the replacements.

David Pocock will captain the Wallabies in Shizuoka instead of Hooper and the coach thinks the competition for places is proving extremely beneficial.

Cheika said: "I know that different teams have different strategies in how they want to approach it.

"Some want to go with the same players all the time and maybe rest out. We feel like keeping players competing for spots is working for us, I think we're playing some good footy.

"Here's another chance for other guys to do the same, guys that didn't play in the last game. I think that [Georgia] are a very improved opposition. It's the first time Australia is ever going to play them, I think.

"We're lucky that we have someone like David Pocock who can come in for Hooper. We're trying to get a balance of opportunity, workload and also being ready to win the game. That is the number one priority at the end of the day."

Australia coach Michael Cheika has made 10 changes for the Wallabies' final Rugby World Cup Pool D fixture against Georgia on Friday.

Cheika's side could already be assured of a place in the quarter-finals if Fiji do not beat Wales on Wednesday, though the Wallabies will likely need a victory to stand a chance of securing first place and avoiding a potential tie with England in the last eight.

Five players have retained their place from the 45-10 win over Uruguay last time out, with captain Michael Hooper handed a rest, though he could come on from the bench to make his 99th Test appearance.

David Pocock will captain the Wallabies in Shizuoka, with Jack Dempsey, Nic White, Matt To'omua, Kurtley Beale and Jordan Petaia staying in the team.

To'omua, who played at 12 against Uruguay, will feature at fly-half, becoming the third different player to start at 10 for Australia in the last three matches, as Bernard Foley - who started in the position against Wales - again misses out.

Wing Petaia became the youngest player to feature in a World Cup for the Wallabies when he made his Test debut against Uruguay, though the 19-year-old has been shifted to the right, with Marika Koroibete coming in on the opposite flank.

Tevita Kuridrani scored twice last time out, but there is no room for him in the 23-man squad for Australia's first competitive match against Georgia.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Jordan Petaia, James O'Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Nic White; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Jack Dempsey, David Pocock, Isi Naisarani.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Michael Hooper, Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano, Dane Haylett-Petty.

Michael Cheika was unwilling to discuss high tackling by Australia after their 45-10 victory over Uruguay in Oita on Saturday.

A routine Pool D success for the Wallabies came despite first-half yellow cards for Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale were also penalised by referee Mathieu Raynal.

Tackling issues have been prevalent during Australia's campaign, with Reece Hodge handed a three-game ban for his challenge on Fiji's Peceli Yato in their opening match.

The Wallabies wing stated he had "no knowledge" of the new tackling framework after he was cited for the hit, which World Rugby said "was of some general concern" when dishing out the suspension.

Cheika was angered by the decision and that criticism and was unwilling to tread similar ground after Australia's meeting with Uruguay led to questions on tackling resurfacing.

"I think maybe we can talk about something else to be honest," said Cheika, who discussed the fact Australia conceded 12 penalties to Uruguay's five.

"We're just giving away too many penalties, full stop, no matter what it's for, you can't be winning the game by 45 and still lose the penalty count.

"One was for kicking the ball out of a ruck. That's a penalty and we know that. We have to tidy that up.

"But I'm not going to talk about tackles. I'm going to steer clear of that."

Dane Haylett-Petty and Tevita Kuridrani touched down either side of a try from 19-year-old debutant Jordan Petaia in the first half.

Haylett-Petty and Kuridrani went over again in the second period, with Will Genia and James Slipper also getting on the board in a bonus-point triumph.

Jordan Petaia enjoyed a memorable debut as Australia bounced back from their loss to Wales with a 45-10 victory over Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The Wallabies could not afford a slip-up after going down to Wales in last week's Pool D blockbuster, and Australia returned to winning ways thanks to a bonus-point triumph.

Australia teenager Petaia capped his long-awaited international bow with a try as the Wallabies crossed seven times to one against a spirited Uruguay team in Oita.

The Wallabies – who made 12 changes for the match before James O'Connor was replaced by Samu Kerevi on the bench prior to kick-off – started fast, despite some desperate Uruguay defending.

Australia made the breakthrough in the sixth minute, with Kurtley Beale feeding Dane Haylett-Petty for an easy five-pointer in open space as Christian Lealiifano added the extras.

The Wallabies did not have it all their own way in the first half following two yellow cards, however, Australia appeared to play better with a man less on the field.

After Felipe Berchesi's penalty conversion and Adam Coleman's high tackle, Petaia burst through for a memorable try in the 24th minute – Beale's quick hands allowing the teenager to cross, with Lealiifano making no mistake in splitting the uprights.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto also found himself in the sin bin approaching the half-hour mark but Tevita Kuridrani sprinted clear to put Australia 19-3 ahead after Petaia fended off two players before teeing up his team-mate.

It could have been 19-10 at half-time but Tomas Inciarte's try was chalked off by TMO for offside after Uruguay had celebrated and lined up for the conversion.

Kuridrani scored his second try of the match to claim the bonus point, streaking clear after collecting the ball in the middle of the field six minutes into the second half.

Will Genia came off the bench to make it 31-3 to Australia eight minutes later, with Lealiifano adding the two points, before James Slipper barged his way over to end his wait for a Test try and Haylett-Petty claimed a double 12 minutes from time.

Uruguay's hard-fought display was rewarded with a with a try at the death – Manuel Diana capping a relentless spell of pressure and 18 phases.

 

A star is born

Petaia's debut was worth the wait. The Reds sensation – the youngest player to represent Australia at a World Cup – scored his first international try with his second touch of the match. Petaia also had a try assist in an impressive first half.

Slipper ends drought

Earning his 94th cap, Slipper had plenty to celebrate. The 30-year-old, who debuted in 2010, finally scored a try for the Wallabies as he was mobbed by his team-mates and given and a standing ovation by Australia's coaching staff.

What's next?

Australia will wrap up their group-stage campaign with a clash against Georgia in Fukuroi on October 11 before Uruguay meet Wales in Kumamoto two days later.

Trent Sainsbury has been left out of Australia's squad for World Cup qualifiers against Nepal and Chinese Taipei due to injury as captain Mark Milligan returns.

Maccabi Haifa defender Sainsbury, 27, is managing a "minor injury", ruling him out of the Group B clashes.

Australia started the second round of qualifying with a 3-0 win over Kuwait and are boosted by the return of Milligan.

"Our group did very well in their first qualifier away from home, so I am pleased to be able [to] maintain significant consistency within the squad as we seek to build upon our strong start to qualifying for Qatar," Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold said.

"Trent is managing a minor injury but remains on standby for the squad should we need to call him in. Bailey [Wright] is a big part of our plans and a great player and person to have in the squad, so we are pleased that he will be with us this month.

"Many of the players in our squad for this window have impressed with their clubs since our win in Kuwait, so we are confident that they will arrive ready to put on great performances both home and away."

The Socceroos face Nepal in Canberra on Thursday before taking on Chinese Taipei in Kaohsiung five days later.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC duo Rhyan Grant and Andrew Redmayne and Melbourne City forward Jamie Maclaren will miss the opening round of the A-League, their sides facing Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory respectively.

Australia: Mitchell Langerak (Nagoya Grampus), Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC), Mat Ryan (Brighton and Hove Albion); Aziz Behich (Istanbul Basaksehir), Milos Degenek (Red Star Belgrade), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Brad Smith (Seattle Sounders), Harry Souttar (Fleetwood Town), Bailey Wright (Bristol City); Mustafa Amini (AGF Aarhus), Ajdin Hrustic (Groningen), Jackson Irvine (Hull City), James Jeggo (Austria Vienna), Massimo Luongo (Sheffield Wednesday), Mark Milligan (Southend United), Aaron Mooy (Brighton and Hove Albion); Brandon Borrello (Freiburg), Apostolos Giannou (AEK Larnaca), Craig Goodwin (Al-Wehda), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Awer Mabil (Midtjylland), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City), Adam Taggart (Suwon Bluewings).

James Slipper says Australia are treating the coming days as "Grand Final week" as they prepare to do battle with Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup.

A rousing fightback was unable to prevent the Wallabies from suffering a 29-25 defeat to Wales last Sunday.

Australia are now third with two Pool D matches to play and prop Slipper knows they have to come out firing from the start when they take on Uruguay at Oita Stadium on Saturday.

"It's obviously disappointing with the result we had [against Wales], but essentially now it's Grand Final week for us," said Slipper.

"Both teams have to win. We're preparing like that every game. So, for us, it's just about getting back into work, training hard, making sure we come out and win the game."

Jordan Petaia will make history by becoming the youngest Australia player to feature in a World Cup match at the age of 19 after Michael Cheika opted to make 12 changes to his starting line-up.

Matt Toomua also comes into the side for his 50th Test cap after impressing off the bench against the Six Nations champions and the centre is backing teenage wing Petaia to show what the hype is about.

"More so than any other young player, he is just as competent on both sides of the ball: attack and defence. It's not often you say that about young guys. They might have a wicked sidestep or something but Jordy likes getting in the rough and tumble stuff, which is brilliant," said Toomua.

Esteban Meneses has made nine alterations to the Uruguay line-up following a heavy loss to Georgia, with centre Andres Vilaseca named captain as Juan Manuel Gaminara drops to the bench.

Facundo Gattas was given a three-match ban for a dangerous tackle in the 33-7 defeat to Georgia and will learn whether he has been successful with an appeal on Friday.
 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia - Christian Lealiifano

Lealiifano replaces Bernard Foley at fly-half, having been surprisingly dropped for the Wales game. The playmaker can seize his chance to show he should keep the number 10 jersey by getting the Wallabies ticking.

Uruguay - Rodrigo Silva

Silva switches from the left wing to full-back and Uruguay will need him to make that a seamless transition as Australia look to pile on the pressure from the start.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Australia and Uruguay's only previous Test meeting came at the last World Cup, with the Wallabies dishing out a 65-3 drubbing. 
- Uruguay's 30-27 victory over Fiji in their opening match of the competition was the first time they had defeated a team from Oceania at a World Cup.
- The Wallabies have trailed at half-time in each of their first two pool matches. Prior to this tournament, they had been behind at the break in only one World Cup pool game - against South Africa in 1995.
- Toomua's 61 metres gained, five defenders beaten and two offloads against Wales were more than he had achieved in any of his previous seven World Cup matches.

Teenager Jordan Petaia will benefit from playing alongside Dane Haylett-Petty and Kurtley Beale when he makes his Australia debut at the Rugby World Cup, according to Michael Cheika.

Petaia is set to make start on Saturday in the Wallabies' Pool D clash with minnows Uruguay, for which Cheika has made 12 changes to his starting XV.

The Reds back will become the youngest Australian to play at a World Cup, with the 19-year-old's wait for his debut extended by hamstring injuries that kept him out of games with Italy and Samoa in November and September respectively.

He missed almost all of the 2019 Super Rugby season due to a foot problem, but the clash in Oita will see Petaia become the first Australian to make his international bow at a World Cup since Berrick Barnes in 2007.

"I think he has got a lot of talent, Jordan, and we will see it for the first time," Australia coach Cheika said at a media conference. "This is the first game ever I will have been able to be involved with him in a game.

"He is just starting out, so we will let him get into the flow and see how he feels. He has a couple of very experienced campaigners next to him in Dane and Kurtley so he will have plenty of experience around him to talk him through.

"But he is a good young man and a good young player and I am sure he will love it running out there at the weekend."

Fly-half Bernard Foley is not included in the squad to face Uruguay having received criticism for an error-strewn performance in the Wallabies' defeat to Wales last time out.

"Bernard - I think he struggled a little bit on the weekend. No doubt about that," Cheika said.

"Christian [Lealiifano], he found his feet pretty well in the Test matches this year. Matt To'omua has played pretty well there as well, finishing for us.

"So, Bernard is working hard on getting himself back into the team. He has been training hard. He did some good things at the weekend, some things he would want to improve on."

Jordan Petaia will become the youngest player to represent Australia at the Rugby World Cup after being named to debut in the Wallabies' must-win game against Uruguay.

Petaia, 19, will make his international bow in Oita on Saturday and break the record held by Joe Roff since his appearance against Canada in a pool match at the 1995 edition.

The highly rated teenager also becomes the first Australian to debut in a World Cup since Berrick Barnes in 2007.

It is a long-awaited first cap for Petaia, who was set to make his maiden appearance against Italy last year before a hamstring injury delayed his bow for the 2015 World Cup runners-up.

The uncapped winger's selection is part of 12 changes to the starting XV following last weekend's 29-25 defeat to Wales in Tokyo – captain Michael Hooper, Dane Haylett-Petty and Allan Alaalatoa the only survivors from the Pool D blockbuster.

Nic White and Christian Lealiifano, who were surprisingly dropped for the Wales match having played in the opening victory over Fiji, have been restored to Michael Cheika's line-up.

Matt To'omua will start at 12 following two impressive performances off the bench, but there is no place for playmaker Bernard Foley in the matchday squad as David Pocock is named among the replacements.

Folau Fainga'a, Jack Dempsey and Tevita Kuridrani also come into the starting side, with James Slipper, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Kurtley Beale elevated from the bench.

Australia are second in Pool D after two games, three points adrift of leaders Wales and a point above Georgia with two fixtures remaining.

 

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt To'omua, Jordan Petaia, Christian Lealiifano, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Luke Salakaia-Loto, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Will Genia, James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Warren Gatland realises the importance of Wales following up an impressive victory against Australia by performing well in their remaining Pool D matches.

Wales took control of their Rugby World Cup group by clinging on against the Wallabies and earning a hard-fought 29-25 win.

Gatland's side are expected to challenge for a first title at this tournament, yet the coach is first focused on ensuring they do not "take anyone lightly" prior to the knockout stages.

Wales face Fiji and then Uruguay in a pair of fixtures they will be expected to win.

"It was a tough game [against Australia] and a victory. It's confidence boosting hopefully for the next couple of games," he told a news conference. "We think they're going to be tough.

"Fiji will be hurting and we saw how well they played against Australia in the first half of that first game. We can't take anyone lightly in this group.

"It's important for us that we make sure we prepare in the best way that we possibly can and that we don't take any team or any performance for granted.

"We have to be as clinical as we possibly can be because that's what good teams do. They make sure that they are clinical and they are accurate.

"If we are to be considered a good team, we have got to play well in these next two matches."

Wales were waiting to see how Dan Biggar recovered after a failed head injury assessment, but Gatland was optimistic Liam Williams would be fit after rolling his ankle.

"We'll need to make sure we recover," Gatland said. "We've got nine or 10 days until our next match.

"We'll use that in the best way we possibly can to freshen up the guys and make sure we take a little time. It's nice getting a decent break before our next match against Fiji."

Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika was not receptive to discussing Wales' chances when he was asked for an assessment at his own spiky news conference.

"I don't think that's really for me to talk about, is it? We've played our game against them and move onto the next game," he said.

"They won, now move onto the next game. It's not my place to talk about who's going to win and who's not."

Michael Cheika claimed decisions at the Rugby World Cup are making him "embarrassed" and question his own knowledge of the laws after feeling Australia were let down by officials again.

The Wallabies had seen Reece Hodge suspended for three matches in the build-up to playing Wales, having been cited for a dangerous tackle against Fiji.

That challenge and the subsequent hearing prompted a public debate in which Hodge took issue with those criticising his supposed lack of knowledge of the "high tackle decision making framework".

Australia were then frustrated to see an apparent high tackle from Rhys Patchell on Samu Kerevi that instead saw the Wallabies man penalised for use of the forearm in the carry.

Cheika outlined his issues with the incident in a post-match news conference.

He also claimed "administrators are spooking referees" due to their awarding of suspensions after the fact, while the coach was bemused to hear England's Piers Francis had evaded a ban at his own hearing.

"It was pretty funny because I thought I'd seen that [Patchell] tackle before," Cheika said. "It could have been Reece Hodge...

"I'm not sure. But when our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. When this guy doesn't think about the high-tackle framework, we get penalised.

"You've seen it. As a former player, I'm embarrassed about that."

He added: "I don't know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don't know the rules anymore.

"They all seem spooked. Everyone seems worried about stuff so much. I'm not sure why they're worried - players aren't worried.

"Then it's affecting everything else on the field as well, decisions on all types of crazy stuff. Then I hear that the English guy got off at the suspension thing. Wow.

"I've not said anything there, have I? It just shows if you're not confused, maybe the floodlights going out at the end was a symbol.

"The administrators are spooking referees. The referees are worried about making the wrong decisions and they're becoming ultra cautious about everything, and it's not inviting to the fans.

"Why should we be having booing out there in a game like that with those types of crowds? There shouldn't be people booing - and they're not booing the players either. That shouldn't be happening."

Asked if rugby was becoming "soft", Cheika replied: "It's a tough one, right? Very tough.

"You've got to take care and look after players but not to an extreme where you're just looking after players for doctors and lawyers. Look after players for players."

Australia captain Michael Hooper conceded the Wallabies left themselves with too much to do against Wales after a poor first half on Sunday.

In what will surely be the key fixture in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, Wales got the better of a strong-finishing Australia 29-25, having led 23-8 at the break.

Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself set up a tense finish, but the Wallabies could not quite wrestle back control of the match.

Hooper was disappointed but keen to move on quickly, knowing Australia cannot afford to spend too long reflecting on a defeat that likely sends them into the same side of the draw as England and New Zealand.

"It was a close game between two very willing teams and it came down to the wire," he said.

"It was 17-6 [in the second half] - we had the momentum, we just gave away too many in the first half. In particular the back-to-back points really hurt us.

"Congratulations to Wales for holding us out.

"We'll review it now. Recovery is key. We'll review it pretty hard, but in this format of competition, you've got to move on pretty quickly."

Coach Michael Cheika offered a blunt assessment of Australia's defeat, adding: "What went wrong? We just lost by a couple of points - it was a tight contest and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Warren Gatland was delighted to see Wales edge past Australia in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter he acknowledged they might well have lost previously.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced out to a 23-8 half-time lead before Australia built momentum in the second period and set up a nervy finish with tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper.

But Wales clung on to take a 29-25 victory and seize control of Pool D, potentially avoiding England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals and semis.

Gatland saw this as the type of clash Wales would have come up short in prior to the last 12 months in which they have forged a steely reputation, also beating Australia in a Test last November.

"It was pretty special," he told ITV Sport. "It was a good first half and we hung on in the second half.

"Australia came at us and the boys are pretty sore and battered in the changing rooms. It was a really tough physical game - and those are the ones in the past that we've been losing.

"It was nice to hold on at the end and I thought our bench were fantastic and gave us some real momentum and fresh legs when we needed them."

He added: "We're really pleased to get that win - it takes a little of the pressure off us. Now we're kind of in control of our own destiny in terms of what happens."

Alun Wyn Jones, making a record 130th appearance, praised Wales' character but was slightly concerned by another "tentative" second half.

Wales had similarly built a big lead against Georgia before slowing after the break, their 29-point half-time advantage failing to increase as they won 43-14.

"I'm pretty happy with the character we showed - particularly in the second half," Jones said.

"At times, it did feel a bit like the Georgia game, where we had a great first half and were a bit tentative in the second half. We'll have a look at that, but I'm pleased with the result."

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