What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the past week of the World Cup, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

The Wallabies have defensive steel
Australia were leading 12-6 against Wales at Twickenham midway through the second half when Will Genia and Dean Mumm were yellow-carded within the space of three minutes. Such was the pressure exerted by the Welsh attack that a try looked inevitable, yet somehow the 13 Wallabies were able to keep them out. Taulupe Faletau knocked on while attempting to ground the ball on the tryline, while Wales were held up over the line on another three occasions. Having defended heroically for 15 minutes, Australia then managed to get into opposition territory, with Bernard Foley's fifth penalty giving them some breathing space. History shows that defence wins World Cups, and the Wallabies showed on Saturday that theirs is made of steel. 

Wales must create more with ball in hand
As good as the Wallabies' defence was in that second half at Twickenham, they were helped by Wales' limitations on attack. Everything the Dragons did was geared towards getting the ball to Jamie Roberts or George North, who would take it up the middle, and there were times that simply drawing and passing, and using the width of the field, would have been more effective. The injury-ravaged Welsh backline is also missing a player who can make something out of nothing, with Rhys Webb's absence really being felt at scrumhalf.

Ireland can win without Johnny Sexton and Paul O'Connell
The Irish suffered two major setbacks during the Pool D decider in Cardiff on Sunday when they lost Sexton and O'Connell to injury in the 25th and 40th minutes respectively. France trailed just 9-6 at the break and would have fancied their chances of going on to beat a team robbed of its two most important players. But the Irish replacements stepped up to help their team claim a convincing 24-9 victory that ensured they avoided the All Blacks in the quarter-finals. Ian Madigan was particularly impressive, slotting a pressure penalty just three minutes after coming off the bench for Sexton, while Iain Henderson proved to be a more than capable replacement for O'Connell.

Bryan Habana still has an eye for the tryline
Habana may have lost the blistering pace that helped him become the top try-scorer at the 2007 World Cup, but the 32-year-old still knows how to find his way to the line. The Bok winger scored a hat-trick against the USA at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, to equal Jonah Lomu's World Cup record of 15 tries as well as David Campese's tier-one record of 64 tries. Habana should have broken both of those records, but he failed to score a fourth try when the ball bounced fractionally higher than he expected. Hopefully he gets another opportunity in the quarter-final against Wales.

Nehe Milner-Skudder will wing it for the All Blacks in the play-offs
The 24-year-old played well against Tonga on Friday night, scoring two tries and having a hand in another. He made 134m from 12 carries, was good in the air and made a few tackles. It should be enough to see him selected on the right wing for the All Blacks' quarter-final, ahead of his main rival Waisake Naholo, who had a quiet game in comparison.

Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

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