Why the Wallabies will win this year's World Cup
It would go down in history as the most incredible World Cup triumph of all time, but the Wallabies could stun rugby fans around the globe later this year.
The Wallabies have been written off by many pundits and fans around the world; cast aside as nothing more than a fallen giant of the sport known as rugby union.
Even Stirling Mortlock, who captained the Wallabies at the 2007 World Cup, insisted Australia is “no chance” of winning this year’s tournament following their shock loss to Italy last November.
And let’s face it, that first-ever loss to the Azzurri was only the tip of the iceberg.
The Wallabies avoided their worst ever season since 1958 with an incredible comeback win over Wales during the Autumn Nations Series.
Australia fought valiantly in the final quarter of the test, as they overturned a 19-point deficit to stun the Cardiff crowd.
But that victory, while impressive, doesn’t exactly right the wrongs from the year that was. It was a disastrous campaign, and that’s concerning going into a World Cup year.
But not all hope is lost.
In reality, the Wallabies weren’t themselves last year – they were the wounded Wallabies, and they still managed to challenge some of the best teams in the world.
More than 50 players donned the coveted gold jersey last year, as the Wallabies experienced what can only be described as an injury crisis.
Coach Dave Rennie was unable to pick his best team week-to-week, so the Wallabies lacked cohesion in some key positions out on the field.
While wins proved hard to come by, they did fall agonisingly short of wins over Ireland, France and the All Blacks – the top three teams in the world. And they probably deserved to win these matches too.
Australia did manage to record statement wins over England and South Africa this year; in review, proving to the rugby world that they can match it with the top five teams in the world.
And then there’s the Wallabies, currently ranked sixth in the world, who are widely considered a dark horse for this year’s World Cup as opposed to a contender.
Yes, rugby is a results driven business, but the Wallabies are frustratingly underrated.
If they had their best players to pick from, which they should do next year, then they’ll be more than capable of an upset or two. In fact, with Cooper and Kerevi back in the fold, they’ll have the best backline in the world.
The Wallabies will be raring to go by the time the World Cup rolls around, and they can take some confidence out of the tournaments draw as well.
As it stands, the Wallabies won’t have to face any of the top four teams in the men’s world rankings until at least the semi-finals.
Australia have been drawn in a pool along with familiar foes Wales and Fiji – two teams they played against at both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.
Wales are a mess; they’re a shadow of their former selves at the moment. As for Fiji, they’re capable of an upset as we saw at the 2007 tournament, but Australia has the talent to record a comfortable win.
Should everything go to plan and Australia tops Pool C, then they’ll probably face either Japan or Argentina in the quarterfinal – presuming England tops that group.
Los Pumas did a number on the Wallabies in Mendoza last year, beating them 48-17 in August. It was a vastly different performance from both teams following Australia’s 15-point win the week before.
The Rugby Championship will be a telling indicator of where these two teams are at mere months out from the Cup, but the Wallabies will be better.
They just have to be.
If they can do what they did going into 2015, where they learnt from their mistakes, then the Wallabies will pose a threat. They’re a better team than Argentina, but it’s up to them to prove that when it counts.
A semi-final clash with one of the top four teams in World Rugby would await the men in gold.
Again, Australia showed that they can match it with these teams, and with their best players fit and available, there’s no reason why they can’t win any of these matchups.
The Wallabies are a team with nothing to lose. That’s not to say they’re playing without pressure, no team is, but I’m sure they’ll happily adopt the underdog tag at this stage of the tournament.
Whether they play Ireland, France, New Zealand or South Africa in this hypothetical semi-final, it wouldn’t matter.
These four teams would’ve faced at least one other top four side in pool play, and another giant of the international game in the quarters.
Fatigue and pressure make a difference at World Cups. These four teams will be feeling it more than the Wallabies.
The rugby world could than bear witness to a potential blockbuster between England and Australia, 20 years on from their final at the 2003 tournament.
On the other hand, they could potentially face any of the four teams I just mentioned above.
It’s all hypothetical, but especially in a final, anything can happen.
The Wallabies will have the best backline in international rugby next year. Their forward pack will be much improved after a review this offseason.
Michael Hooper is returning to career-best form, and whether he’s got the captaincy or not, he’ll continue to lead by example as he always has.
Their Achilles heel will be their discipline, and that was ultimately the difference in some thrilling tests this year.
But should they get that right, and have their best players to choose from, then Australia can make the most of the ‘easier’ side of the draw.
The New Year is a time for optimism; it’s a time for dreams, ambition and desire.
Don’t sleep on the Wallabies because a new year is upon us, and they’ll be a very different team – just watch.
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