Ireland did Australia a favour after all in winning their World Cup pool match 15-6 more than three weeks ago.
The tournament's first big upset shuffled the anticipated quarter-final lineups, and ultimately sent Ireland into the half of the draw with fellow northern hemisphere sides, while the Wallabies were lumped with co-favourites for the title, South Africa and New Zealand.
Ireland were sent home by Wales in the quarter-finals, while the Wallabies tackled themselves to a standstill to oust the defending champion Springboks 11-9 yesterday, setting up a semi-final against the All Blacks.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was certain today that the Ireland result was good for his squad.
“Had we got through that encounter with relative ease, we would have suffered yesterday,” Deans said. “We wouldn't have been well prepared. But they were as mentally ready as they could be (against South Africa) because of the experience against Ireland.”
The Wallabies lost an 8-3 lead and didn't regain it until the 71st minute when James O'Connor kicked the decisive penalty. Deans described the match as “out of the ordinary”.
“The Springboks really upped the ante, put our blokes in a vice and they came through that test,” Deans said. “We're obviously delighted to be in the semis and we'll bring some of that forward with us.”
Whether the injured prop Sekope Kepu (ankle), centre Pat McCabe (shoulder) and fullback Kurtley Beale (hamstring) go forward, too, was yet to be confirmed.
McCabe was replaced after a few too many hits to his shoulder and face and was already feeling better, Deans said, while Kepu and Beale needed more scans.
Fly-half Quade Cooper's lack of form has increased the clamour to start Berrick Barnes at inside centre to relieve some of the playmaker responsibility from Cooper, but Deans would say only that Barnes, “has done well with his time”.
As for his misfiring fly-half, Deans defended Cooper.
“He's a pretty resilient character, Quade,” Deans said. “He's delighted, as we all are, that we got through that challenge and he was a part of that.
“We're confident he'll bounce back. It's about helping the team get up and he did that and he deserves his piece of enjoyment.”
One thing he wanted ironing out was the kicking game.
“We didn't kick well and that contributed to the huge physical demands we had to embrace,” Deans said.
He also wasn't so keen to give the All Blacks as much territory and possession as the South Africans enjoyed.
Deans had yet to see New Zealand's 33-10 win over Argentina in the last quarter-final, but he knew what was coming.
“I'm very excited, hugely excited,” said Deans, a former All Blacks player and assistant coach. “We know each other well as teams. There's no more history than between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.”