TOKYO -- The Wallabies have a problem at the Rugby World Cup and its making life more difficult than it should be.
In their first two matches -- a 39-21 victory over Fiji and Sunday's 29-25 loss to Wales -- Australia have fallen behind early and been forced to chase the game. They were able to run down the Fijians, but having conceded a 23-8 margin to Wales at halftime in Tokyo, the Wallabies left themselves far too much to do and are now likely to find themselves on the more difficult side of the knockout draw as a result.
The match against Wales also saw Australia concede a drop goal after just 36 seconds when they failed to clear the ball from their opening ruck, following the kick-off. Only conceding a try could have been a worse beginning, but Dan Biggar's three points certainly set the tone for a first half which saw Wales outplay the Wallabies.
With two seemingly easier pool matches to come, against Uruguay on Saturday and then Georgia the following Friday, the Wallabies must find a way to come out of the blocks a little quicker, particularly if they are any hope of taking down likely quarterfinal opponents England.
"I don't know. Good question. We're looking for the answer at the moment and should we find it, hopefully we do, not going to tell you or the opposition," scrum-half Nic White said of his side's starting woes. "It's tough. We want to play footy and get out there and maybe we have got to be a little bit more patient early on.
"Certainly I don't think it's a case of us not being ready or wanting it. Maybe we're too excited and [have] just got to build into the game a bit more and maybe show a bit more restraint."
While the first halves of both matches have resulted in two and 15-point deficits, respectively, Australia dominated the second stanzas against both Fiji and Wales by margins of 27 and nine, respectively.
White pointed to the Wallabies' fitness base and the quality of their bench as to the surge in performance across the second 40, he said Australia perhaps needed to punch more ball through the forwards in the earlier stages of matches.
They have to earn the right to go wide.
"Again, I think it's just like I said before, maybe just a little restraint; we're just so excited to get out and move the ball around and play the footy that we know we can play.
"But again it's maybe what you've said there, earning the right, teams maybe are good early on when they're fresh, defensively, and as you've seen towards the back end of the game there's a lot of tired bodies that are out there and that's maybe the time to move the ball around and play our style.
"But we're figuring it out, it's certainly not too little too late, we've still got a lot to play for and we feel alright. So touch up on a few of those things, take those learns and we feel pretty confident."
One of Australia's other problems has been their inability to get on the ball at the breakdown despite boasting the likes of skipper Michael Hooper and David Pocock, as well as hooker Tolu Latu, who are call capable of making momentum-swinging turnovers.
But they haven't had much luck at the tackle so far in Japan and Latu thinks it might time for a complete rethink on how the Wallabies are approaching it.
"Yeah, it's really hard. Even Poey is struggling to get on the ball as well and he is one of the best at it," Latu said of the breakdown contest at the World Cup. "The game is so quick that you don't really have much time to get into the ruck and get on the ball, and it seems like refs are not really giving [many] penalties away at ruck time to the person pilfering. You've just got to leave it.
"Refs are not giving pay to people getting on the ball. You have to survive probably two cleanouts. And it's a fair bit of time to be in there. It's probably better to be in D line and getting your line sorted so that you can get up and make tackles."
One of the other big talking point out of the Wallabies' loss on Sunday was a supposed lack of pay for a dominant scrum, something coach Michael Cheika alluded to in his colourful post-match press conference.
Australia looked to be on top of Wales at the set-piece throughout but Cheika felt that referee Romain Poite didn't really reward his side's dominance until the second half.
Wallabies prop Scott Sio dismissed suggestions Australia may still be held up against weaker scrummaging performances of the past, the front-rower instead pointing to a rise in level across all teams at the set-piece as to why Sunday's rewards might not have come as they should.
"Refs are going to call what they see at the end of the day and we've just got to adapt when we're on the field," Sio said. "Moving forward, we have a new ref this weekend against Uruguay and we've just got to do our best throughout the week to make sure that we present good pictures and give ourselves the best opportunity at set-piece.
"I don't think [Australia has a bad scrum reputation]. I think set piece is such a pivotal part of the game. A lot of teams derive a lot of their game around that and around what they want to do as a game plan so it's no surprise that teams are going to try and target each other at set piece and try to get the upper hand there. I don't think so but you've got to be ready no matter who you're playing."