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Five predictions for the Wallabies ahead of The Rugby Championship

By Finn Morton
Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones poses with co-captains James Slipper and Michael Hooper during the Australian Wallabies Rugby Championship squad announcement at Sanctuary Cove on June 25, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Following last year’s disastrous international season, new coach Eddie Jones has helped breathe new life into the Wallabies and Australian rugby as a whole.

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Rugby is back in the headlines, and many fans genuinely believe in the men in gold.

Under coach Jones, anything is possible. Wallabies fans are not only optimistic but confident ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

But that’s still months away.

The road to rugby immortality starts this weekend in The Rugby Championship.

As a passionate sporting nation watches on from Down Under, the Wallabies will want to make their mark against their fierce southern hemisphere rivals.

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The Wallabies begin their TRC campaign against reigning Rugby World Cup champions South Africa in Pretoria this weekend, before hosting Los Pumas in Sydney a week later.

Eddie Jones and then Wallabies will round off their shortened TRC with a blockbuster fixture against Ian Foster’s All Blacks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Looking to usher in a new era under coach Jones, here’s how things might play out ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

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Springboks will teach the Wallabies a lesson

While Eddie Jones’ sheer genius may finally help unearth the very best of a golden generation of Australian rugby players – this team may go deep at the World Cup – things might not get off to an idyllic start.

The Wallabies begin their Rugby Championship campaign against the Springboks at Loftus Versfield in Pretoria this weekend.

It’s a venue that they’ve never won at. They’d need to rewrite their history.

Before flying out to South Africa earlier this month, Jones told reporters at Sydney International Airport that the Wallabies want to “set the tone for our campaign” against the Springboks.

But the Springboks aren’t to be messed with. They aren’t the reigning World Cup champions for no reason.

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South Africa showed last year in two Test matches against the All Blacks that they’re a different breed in front of their home fans – an unforgiving force that refuses to cower or give up.

The Springboks have named a strong side for the Test, with powerful backrower Duane Vermeulen set to captain the team from the back of the scrum.

They simply have everything going for them before this Test, while the Wallabies are still trying to figure out their identity under Eddie Jones.

The Wallabies will show glimpses of promise, but the hosts will ultimately get the job done by a relatively comfortable scoreline.

Wallabies will win a Bledisloe Cup battle, but lose the war (again)

Whenever there’s a Rugby World Cup coming up, the Wallabies seem to go up another gear against their greatest rivals New Zealand.

It’s almost as if they want to create a sense of genuine fear amongst All Blacks fans. Every time it has happened in the past, panic rapidly spreads throughout a rugby-mad nation at the bottom of the world like the plague.

This year will be no different.

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After losing to South Africa, the Wallabies will bounce back with a win over Argentina in Sydney – which sets them up perfectly for their toughest Test yet.

In front of a packed house at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a sea of gold will inspire the Wallabies to a famous win over the little brothers from across the ditch in late July.

The world-famous venue will erupt into a frenzy at full-time, and Australian rugby fans will begin to question whether 2023 is the year that the men in gold finally break their Bledisloe Cup hoodoo.

But they won’t.

Not yet, at least.

After winning the Test match in Melbourne, the Wallabies will head to Dunedin – and lose that clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Painfully in the eyes of Wallabies supporters, the Bledisloe Cup will remain in New Zealand for another year.

So, while a battle will be won, the Wallabies will ultimately lose the Bledisloe Cup war.

Carter Gordon will emerge as a Breakout Player of the Year contender

Going into this year’s Super Rugby Pacific season, playmaker Carter Gordon had clearly been given the keys to the Melbourne Rebels’ attack under coach Kevin Foote.

Starting 13 matches at flyhalf this season, Gordon was nothing short of sensational.

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It almost wasn’t a surprise to see the 22-year-old included in Eddie Jones’ Wallabies squad for The Rugby Championship. Gordon was just that good.

Now just a few days away from possibly his first taste of international rugby against the Springboks, Gordon could be set for more greatness in 2023.

Gordon will not only challenge veteran Quade Cooper for the starting No. 10 jersey under coach Jones, but the young flyhalf will also take his game to the next level.

With a brilliant rugby IQ, a skillset well beyond his years, and great leadership qualities as well, Gordon will emerge as a contender for World Rugby’s Breakout Player of the Year.

French-based locks will make a real difference

Late last month, former Wallabies captain James Horwill said that the Wallabies should select uncapped Toulouse lock Richie Arnold alongside Will Skelton in The Rugby Championship squad.

Both players were picked, and could potentially play a big role – both figuratively and literally – for the Wallabies in the coming weeks.

Arnold, who is the twin brother of former Wallaby Rory, has been sensational for the French powerhouse in both the domestic and European competitions.

But with such a big frame, and the experience of playing in the northern hemisphere, Arnold could form a formidable connection with La Rochelle lock Skelton.

The pair could give the Wallabies a physical edge against some powerhouse teams including the All Blacks, and potentially Ireland, France and England and this year’s World Cup.

To say Australia could have a better set-piece would be an understatement. The Wallabies could end up having one of the most dynamic and physical forward packs in the world.

Eddie Jones will bring out the best of Suliasi Vunivalu

Winger Suliasi Vunivalu was never able to really force his way into the Wallabies under former coach Dave Rennie.

Vunivalu, who is a former NRL star with the Melbourne Storm, has only played one Test match – and that was a cameo off the bench against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground last year.

But the fault can’t be pinned on Rennie. Vunivalu also struggled to maintain some consistency under former Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn.

Vunivalu is better than that, though. That’s what Australian rugby fans thought when the code hopper put pen to paper with Rugby Australia, and that’s what some still believe.

Fortunately for the one-Test Wallaby, Eddie Jones is a genius. The super coach has been able to get the most out of some world-class stars, including some former rugby league players.

Better than anyone else in rugby union, Jones will understand what made Vunivalu so special in the NRL – and how this can be replicated in the 15-player game.

Jones was able to lead former NRL stars Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor to Wallabies stardom 20 years ago, and Vunivalu can be dealt a similar fate this year.

There’s plenty of depth in the Wallabies’ outside backs though, so the Reds winger will face a tough challenge to force himself into the starting lineup.

But under coach Eddie Jones, anything is possible for the former Storm star.

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Comments

6 Comments
j
james 374 days ago

Wendell Sailor... 😂 that article is hilarious

I
Ian 374 days ago

I'm not sure many English supporters would recognise the 'sheer genius' of Eddie Jones as most of us were sick of the sound of him by the time he left. That said, as a short term boost he's a good choice for an Aussie team that usually delivers with style and spirit.

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