Would the Wallabies deserve ninth spot on the rankings following Bledisloe defeat?
The World Rugby rankings might be a questionable method of assessing teams’ standings on the international circuit but it’s fair to say that Australia are certainly in a dark place at present.
Following their loss to the Springboks in Sydney, the Wallabies dropped to a historic low of eighth on the rankings – falling below Argentina, who were thumped by 50 points in Hamilton by the All Blacks.
If Australia can’t bounce back in next weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash with NZ, who have stumbled upon at least some semblance of form, they will drop a further spot to ninth.
Are the Wallabies really the eighth or ninth-best team in the world at present?
While the competition for top ranks has perhaps never been more hard-fought – with every team in the top 10 seemingly capable of besting one another on any given day – the last month of action has probably highlighted how dependant Australia currently are on a few talismanic performers.
Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi were integral to the Wallabies’ run of good form during last year’s competition, with Australia recording four wins on the trot when those two were available for action. Without Cooper and Kerevi on deck, the Wallabies scraped a 2-1 series win over a France side lacking the vast majority of their top players, were whitewashed by the All Blacks in the three Bledisloe fixtures, and then fell to three defeats on their end-of-year tour, only managing to bank a win against Japan.
A pair of wins over England and South Africa aside, 2022 has gotten off to another disappointing start and with Cooper and Kerevi both out of action for the remainder of the season thanks to long-term injuries. With Michael Hooper also unavailable – and set to miss his team’s final two Rugby Championship matches, that ninth spot on the rankings beckons – and things likely won’t get any easier on this year’s northern tour.
The Wallabies are set to play Scotland, France, Italy and Ireland over consecutive weekends in October and November and it would take a brave man to bet on Australia grabbing more than one win on that run of fixtures. Italy may remain easy beats of the top echelon but Scotland have proven themselves a formidable side in recent times (and earned a hard-fought 15-13 victory over the Wallabies in Edinburgh last year). France and Ireland, meanwhile, are perhaps the two leading sides in the world game (and are ranked accordingly) and after both dispelling the All Blacks over the past 12 months, will be looking to add some more Southern Hemisphere scalps to their collection.
Rugby Championship rivals Argentina and South Africa have shared the spoils with Australia this year and while the former may be at a similar level to the Wallabies, the Springboks showed in their victory in Sydney with an understrength side that even the hoodoo of playing in Australia couldn’t keep them down for long. New Zealand will also be expected to enact further pain on their trans-Tasman rivals in Melbourne and Auckland.
And what of England and Wales? Both sides have grabbed wins over Australia in the past 12 months and would likely fancy their chances whether home or away and both could find themselves squaring off with the green-and-golds at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Michael Hooper’s addition for the Wallabies’ trip north will no doubt help their case while having both Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi back on deck for the flagship tournament in 2023 will do the side wonders but while international rugby has perhaps need been more hotly contested at the highest levels of the game, it appears that the Wallabies are currently sitting exactly where they belong on the world rankings.
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