World Cup Preview: Australia

Group C Opposition: Ireland, Italy, USA, Russia

Pedigree: More than respectable – took Bill home in 1991 and 1999, each time the outstanding team in the competition. Dragged to the final in 2003 (and almost won it) by their outstanding half-back combination – George Gregan’s refrain of “Four more years mate” in the semi will freeze Kiwi blood for a very long time.

Players to watch: [WoC Ed: Just look at the age of these lads …] Gregan’s spiritual successor Will Genia (23) is the man who makes the Wallabies tick, although it’s Quade Cooper (23) who gets the headlines – though, with footwork like he has, its kind of deserved. Outside them you have the similarly talented Kurtley Beale (22) and James O’Connor (21). All 4 won’t even be at their peak until 2019 – be afraid, be very afraid.

Good Tournament: This time last year, a semi-final may have been acceptable. After keeping pace with NZ throughout last season, followed by the Reds Super Rugby success this year, its looks like a final appearance is the minimum requirement.

Bad Tournament: Being put out by any team that doesn’t copy that funny pre-match dance Munster patented in 2008.

Prospects: After throwing their toys out of the pram following an Andrew Sheridan-inspired destruction in 2007, Australia paradoxically managed to get running rugby banned by the IRB for 2 years. Luckily, everyone saw sense, and the emasculation of Morne Steyn has coincided with an upturn in Aussie fortunes, helped, of course, by the emerging talent mentioned above.

Robbie Deans has patiently been building towards this tournament for a while – as recently as 2009, they only won one Tri-Nations match. In that tournament, Deans blooded some of the players that now backbone his team, included Cooper, O’Connor, Genia, David Pocock and Ben Alexander.

From 6 back, they have a huge amount of options – even captain Rocky Elsom is under serious pressure for his place from the superb Scott Higginbotham, whose Tri-Nations appearances off the bench have been outstanding. And in the back division, they have piles of creativity and danger – as we write, Matt Giteau can’t make the 22, and Berrick Barnes’ un-retirement is a footnote. The problems lie further forward. Like Ireland, they have only two props who can scrummage, and Deans has found it difficult to settle on a hooker and second row combination – they can occasionally get mauled up front, and there are only so many times you can turn that around.

In a tournament like this, there is always a requirement to tough out games, particularly at the business end, which may not suit the Wallabies – the semi-final against England or France already looks like a flashing warning light. Despite the advancement in the last two years, 2015 is probably a more realistic target.

Verdict: They should beat Ireland, and will have to dig deep to negotiate a very tricky semi-final (especially if France click), but New Zealand will be a bridge too far. Beaten finalists.

Advertisements

6 Comments

  1. Wouldn't be overly initimidated by their pack, although Pocock could do a bit of damage against Ireland. Reckon they have a few issues at centre as well, with AA Cooper being played at 13 to accomodate Beale, but Giteau at 12 would improve them there plus he is probably a better goal kicker than O'Connor (who is long but not always accurate).Yeah its their half back partnership which is a huge threat. If we can keep those two hemmed in Ireland could well take this outfit, but if Genia, Cooper get their tails up and get an inkling of opportunity they will put points on anybody.

  2. If they lose to Ireland they'll probably be stifled in quarters by Saffers. If they beat Ireland, then its at least a semi final and very possibly a final as you've said. All in all they don't really have the necessary strength in depth to go all way to the final so I'm going to wear the green goggles and say out at the quarters, though its probably just Friday optimism.

  3. Thanks Anon.Actually, AAC has been playing there for the Brumbies for a few years now. Beale has been a revelation on the wing, but he has been at stand-off for the Waratahs in the second half of the season.I'm not convinced by Giteau or his kicking – Pat McCabe has been solid, and until Gits nails a last minute conversion against NZ (JOC style) he's not first choice kicker for me!You've hit the nail on the head though – Genia and Pocock could make hay against us – they are key men for Oz.This weekend will tell all, but I would be surprised if SA have it in them – they have the mongrel, but not the skill I fear.

  4. All true, but have never felt AAC looked as comfortable at 13 as he did at 15, just reckon he enters the line better from full back. Pat McCabe may work out as a solid 12 for all these fluent players to play around, but not convinced as yet. He has a touch of the ooooooooooooooohhhh Pat McCabe about him, some highlight reel footage masking poor positioning. Watch, he'll be brilliant and score a bagful tomorrow now I've said that! Giteau is well respected in training as a touch rugby player because he has nice ability to suck in defenders and put guys through holes. That might be more beneficial to AAC/Beale. It won't be touch they're playing over the next few months in fairness though, so I may well be wrong. Will keep a close eye on McCabe tomorrow.Beale is a great footballer, wherever he plays. I kind of suspect that great kick of JOC's against the ABs might mean a lot of his other kicking is filed under selective amnesia for fans of his. The Aussies don't have a truly reliable goalkicker in whom to put their trust (JOC/Gits/Coop) and I was delighted to see them chopping and changing last week. The more they are unsure who is their number 1 kicker the better for Ireland.

  5. Well EC,have to hold my hands up – McCabe seemed to show a bit more than I have seen previously (although I only saw the 2nd half). In that time he had the ball in his hands twice (one good carry and one walk-in try), but it was more his tackling that was excellent. He does seem to relish people running direct at him and the stop on Bismark Du P in full flight was impressive and cleverly timed.But from watching some other games I still would question his defensive positioning at times and Ireland's (Leinster patented) fly-half wrap around could be a nice move to expose him. Ireland have barely used this move in the warm ups, which suggests to me they are keeping it in cold storage for the world cup. Faking the wrap around and sending a runner or two on different angles could be a good way to get him a bit lost and more unsure of himself.As an aside the Wallaby scrum went well yesterday, Moore has had an excellent tri-nations and Faiinga looked good in backline when introduced. The Boks will get better but I must say your finalist prediction looks a bit more likely than my 1/4 finalist since yesterday. The Ireland game is huge in terms of the kinockout opposition they are then likely to face.

  6. Interesting thoughts on the wrap – I'm thinking Dorce is critical here, the Leinster 10-12-13 execute it so smoothly, that even when you know its coming, it can be very efective.The most interesting thing from our perspective was SA – if we do trip up against Aus, SA look beatable – I know it was their first game back effectively, but their forwards have lost a little of the dog that did for the Lions in 09 …

%d bloggers like this: