NELSON, New Zealand - James Horwill and Luke Burgess had differing views on Australia teammate Drew Mitchell's mindset after he strained his hamstring to almost certainly end his involvement at the World Cup not long after a four-month injury layoff.
Mitchell pulled up suddenly after reaching down to regather a loose ball in the 68-22 win over Russia at Trafalgar Park on Saturday, adding to the Wallabies' injury woes with backrower Wycliff Palu out of the tournament and five other backs currently sidelined.
Mitchell made an almost miraculous recovery to reach the World Cup in New Zealand after dislocating his ankle and breaking a bone in his leg in a Super 15 match in April. So to be struck down in just his second start for Australia since then was cruelty heaped upon injustice.
Horwill attempted to put a positive slant on an injury that had obviously affected his teammates as well as Mitchell.
"Drew is a pretty upbeat sort of guy most of the time and he's obviously bitterly disappointed that it has happened," Australia's captain said. "But he's been very positive in the change rooms and the boys have rallied around him. But he's pretty upbeat and he wants us to go on and do the job that we need to do."
Burgess found it hard to disguise his feelings, however. The scrumhalf was morose almost to the point of being monosyllabic when asked about Mitchell.
"He's hating life, not enjoying things," Burgess said. "As you can understand, just so unlucky. Poor bloke, it's pretty disappointing for him."
Australia played some sparkling attacking rugby in the first half against an initially hesistant Russia team, scoring seven tries and celebrating the successful return of David Pocock from a back injury and the steadying influence of Berrick Barnes at inside centre.
After the break, however, it was a different story. Australia needed Barnes' second try in the 79th minute to "win" the half, 21-17. Amazingly, Russia made just two handling errors despite dominating possession to the tune of 58 per cent — and all at its first World Cup.
Australia coach Robbie Deans wanted to look forward to an expected quarterfinal meeting with the Springboks rather than overanalyze a scrum that lost a tighthead and gave away two penalties or a lineout that lost three of 10 throws against very modest opposition.
"We got out of the game what we sought — we qualified for the playoffs," Deans said. "Clearly, we'll have to sit and watch and wait to see who we're playing against, but it appears most likely it will be South Africa and we will just push on from here. It's a different circumstance from this week on."
The Wallabies are set to welcome back Digby Ioane (thumb), Kurtley Beale (hamstring), Anthony Fainga'a (head) and Pat McCabe (shoulder) for the quarterfinals, but a query put to Deans about if there were other casualties on Saturday received an equivocal response.
"Nothing at this stage," Deans said.