RWC2015: Australia – Three Things You Need to Know

Waltzing Matilda. Man-eating spiders. Australian citizens. All horrible things to come out of the land known to many a bogan, and a drunk Shane Warne, as ‘Straya.’

Usually, I would add the Wallabies to that list, however 2015 has proved that the boys in yellow are one of the hottest teams heading into the World Cup.

Forget what you see or read about the Wallabies in the last four years. Experts will bring to light their test record in 2014 (six wins from fourteen), and their head-to-head against South Africa (five losses in the last six games).

However, since head-coach Michael Cheika took over the reigns in 2014, the Aussies have a renewed sense of energy that has seen them surge into RWC conversations.

Here are the three things you need to know.

1. Confidence

The Aussies are riding a wave of confidence heading into the RWC after defeating the  Springboks in Brisbane and the All Blacks in Sydney, winning the 2015 Rugby Championship.

They pushed themselves into the number two spot on the World Rugby Rankings, and have earned every ounce of respect that comes with it.

A win over the All Blacks showed that the Aussies can compete with anyone, and will surely help them overcome any mental hurdle posed by England, Wales and Fiji during pool play.

Take that confidence, and translate it into a RWC semi or final, and you’d be silly to bet against them.

2. Pocock, Hooper and Folau

The debate over who owns the top flanker spot in World Rugby seems simple to most; Richie McCaw.

However, David Pocock, seven years McCaw’s junior, has been propelled into the conversation and the reasons are a-plenty.

Pocock made the All Blacks backrow look like school kids in the Wallabies emphatic win at Sydney on the 8th of August. His ability to win the ball at the breakdown is unparalleled, and his youthfulness means he shows up everywhere on the park.

Not only that, but Pocock rarely gets penalised, making him one of the most useful backrowers in World Rugby.

Right next to him runs Michael Hooper. Hooper, like Pocock, is an absolute work horse. He never stops, and he never loses intensity.

This pairing in the backrow is crucial. No matter how good or bad your backline is in a World Cup, good ball retention from the forwards will go a long way to winning games.

In this case, Hooper and Pocock will make Genia and Phipps, playing at halfback, look like masters.

Then, once the ball spreads wide, in comes Israel Folau. The Australians biggest offensive weapon heading into RWC 2015 and arguably their biggest advantage over Northern Hemisphere teams who won’t know how to deal with the 6’4″, 103 kg playmaker.

3. Northern Hemisphere Pros

Apart from South Africa winning in France in 2007, Australia is the only other Southern Hemisphere team to win a World Cup in the Northern Hemisphere, doing it twice!

The last time was 1999 in Wales and the time before that, 1991 in the U.K. (including Ireland, Wales, France, England and Scotland).

Thus, they return to England, the site where they won their very first World Cup.

But so what, different team, different era.

This may be so, but if there is one thing we have learnt about Rugby World Cups, its that past experience and mental edges play a massive role, both on and off the field.

It is not so much a matter of Australia’s advantage, but rather a matter of other teams disadvantage.

The fact that the All Blacks have never won a RWC in the Northern Hemisphere shows that it provides a completely different environment, and requires a completely different frame of mind.

And the reason why the All Blacks matter so much is because it is hard seeing the Australians going through this RWC without facing them.

They will either face each other in the semi or the final, and while all the money is on the All Blacks, the Aussies could fight to produce another Sydney-like performance and upset the in-form ABs.

Prediction

It all comes down to one game.

If Aussie drop a game in pool play, its the All Blacks in the semi.

If they battle through as winners in Pool A, they will face the ABs in the final.

Either way, its going to be a 1st vs. 2nd extravaganza at some point in the competition and the Aussies will be there with strength.

By Sam Hewat

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