RWC 2015 runners and riders: Australia - Green and Gold Rugby
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RWC 2015 runners and riders: Australia

RWC 2015 runners and riders: Australia

Having reviewed New Zealand, and England, Cameron Gray continues looks at how the runners and riders are faring for RWC 2015 with Australia

2013 FORM

A quick glance at the win (7)/loss (8) ratio makes for poor reading for Australia. For a nation that reached the semi-finals of the 2011 RWC their rugby public is rightly entitled to better.

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Results and statistics can sometimes cloud the picture a little though. Had Kurtley Beale knocked over one of two kicks in the first Lions Test Robbie Deans may still have a door to an office bearing his name in St Leonards.

Rightly or wrongly his time as Australia coach ended at the conclusion of that Lions series, but apart from the third Test his men were up to their eyeballs in it.

When Ewen McKenzie was installed, confirming the worst kept secret since Y2K, tough stances were taken. James O’Connor found himself on an early sabbatical to the UK with London Irish and McKenzie’s right hand man at the Reds, Will Genia, rode the pine for a while as McKenzie looked to invigorate his team.

As Australia landed at Heathrow James Horwill awoke to find Ben Mowen wearing the captain’s armband as McKenzie sent out a warning that no one was exempt from the axe.

His side seemed to respond in kind. Apart from the England game where Australia were on the end of some dubious decisions they were reaching the form they are capable of, winning  their last four games in a style that bodes well for 2014.

KEY PLAYERS

Was there a better match-up in 2013 than Israel Folau versus George North? Both scored tries that you’d happily watch over and over on a highlights reel.

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Folau would arguably be the most lethal back in world rugby although Ben Smith and Julian Savea might also lay claims to that title.

He’s fast, elusive and marks the high ball like no other. If the Wallabies can get him into space, opposition teams might have to sound the warning bell for all hands on deck.

Michael Hooper is another with talent to burn. With David Pocock back in action Hooper will need to lift his game to new levels to keep the ‘veteran’ at bay.

He’ll need to be more selective about what breakdowns he competes at. Penalties could be crucial at RWC 2015, especially in the ‘pool of death’. Hooper has the full armoury though, good hands, strength and the speed of a back – just ask Israel Dagg.

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Gain parity or better up front and feed the backs in the wide channels.

McKenzie had his team firing under a closed roof in Dunedin giving the ball plenty of air which troubled New Zealand. They still came up short but this blueprint served them well.

In Tevita Kuridrani they have a genuine line-breaking centre who can trouble defences. He was a handful in Dunedin and showed some good touches. If he can get over the gain line creating second phase ball for Folau the world will be their oyster.

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STRENGTHS

Australia possess one of the world’s most destructive players in Israel Folau. If he gets clean, front-foot ball it will be curtains for most teams. He’ll find himself a marked man in 2014 but based on 2013 form it will take a good defence to subdue him.

Of the top five teams Australia look to have the most improvement in them which will leave a few opposition coaches hoping it’s not their team who cop an Australian team firing on all cylinders.

WORK-ONS

Conceded the most penalties and free kicks, according to IRB statistics, in the 2013 Rugby Championship. McKenzie will need to find a way to make his team more disciplined if they want to advance out of the ‘pool of death’ in RWC 2015. If they continue this trend two Lions in Owen Farrell and Leigh Halfpenny will kick them out of the competition.

2015 PREDICTION

Semi-finalist

  • Dave

    This is the only Wallabies article I can remember in the recent past that hasn’t mentioned Quade Cooper. He is the messiah and you left him out… In shock TBQH.

    • Ian Daley

      Yeah but Israel Folau, and also Israel Folua. Watch out also for Israel Folau.
      Having said that, the Wallaby opposition teams should REALLY watch out for is Israel Folau.

      Also worth mentioning Hooper, and Folau.

  • Canuckruck

    I really think that there are a number of aspects of the Wallabies which need to be discussed.

    1. Forwards need to continue their significant improvement of late especially the front row. I think this needs to be the first priority. Heartened by the improvement in the November internationals.

    2. The Genia-Cooper connection. Will Genia needs to continue the improvement as he is still not at his best. When he is at his best, he is truly (one of?) the best scrum half in the world. The new Quade Cooper needs to be mentioned. He is a game changer and adds an unquantifiable element to the Wallaby game. He is better than he has ever been and is still improving.

    3. Continue with the attacking rugby. Keep the tries coming and the Wallabies can defeat any team out there.

    Genuine strong contenders if the improvement of the latter half of 2013 continues into 2014.

    • Garry

      It’s interesting the QC is being haled as the ‘new’ QC, as if he has never shown such great form. I think we’d better go back are watch some of the 2011 Super matches. You’ll find plenty of the new QC there too.

      For mine, the difference can be found in the style of the WB’s are playing. QC is at his best when he has multiple running options to feed. The WB backs are getting more comfortable with his style, it can only get better. Link’s experience with QC is the real positive, and he will expunge the toxicity for QC.

      • Canuckruck

        Garry, I agree completely, he is playing much like 2011, however perhaps a bit less impetuous? less rash?…..
        Agree with the multiple running options comment too….nice to watch

  • Mica

    So effectively you’ve called the pool of death England top, Wallabies second and Wales gone. Then Australia to beat SA and lose to NZ.

    Some big calls here; but 2 years will show a fair bit of change in form I’d think.

    At least it shows how important it’s going to be to finish first in Pool A

  • PiratesRugby

    Yes, a very superficial analysis of the Australian side. I’m guessing your analysis of France will include such insights as “can beat any team in their day” and “which France will turn up”. And you must call them Les Bleus once.
    No mention of QC or his accomplice in the centres, Toomua. You mentioned Hooper but failed to refer to Fardy or the returning Higginbotham.
    O’Connor is maintaining his form for London Irish… That is, flashy individual play yielding negligible advantage to his team. The fact that Deans thought JOC could lead a team just proved his lack of judgment. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of him. JOC I mean, not Deans who I’ve really got nothing against.
    What about the WBs front row? Who is in the running for TH? Has Kepu finally come of age or was his performance against the Welsh a one off? Scott Sio? Paddy Ryan? Have the Bens done their dash?
    Sorry, but if you’re going to post a five part series on a dedicated australian rugby website then you’d better come here with some more detailed and thorough analysis.

    • Merry Christmas to you too

      • PiratesRugby

        Too negative?

  • Pedro

    “Rightly or wrongly his time as Australia coach ended at the conclusion of that Lions series,”
    I think you’d struggle to find anyone who believed Deans should have remained, even if we won that series. We were playing dire rugby for 2 years.

    • Ian Daley

      Lots of people believe Deans should have remained.

      However, they’re all Crusaders supporters.

    • Garry

      2 years? That’s generous.

      There were waves of sporadic dire-ness from the moment he took over the reigns. The extent of the problem became more obvious as he exerted more influence over time. Eventually we became a dire-tribe.

      Well planned NZRU. Hats off to your RWC scheme. And it looks like time is already tempering our memories of what happened. Soon it will be just another era remebered for hot and cold WB performances, and Deans culpability will be on-existant.

  • Langthorne

    Thanks for the article Cameron. No doubt this is the ‘begining of the begining’ as far as RWC2015 articles are concerned.

    I think the Wallabies will be hoping (needing) to have sufficient depth across all positions in order to keep everyone on their toes due to the threat of others taking their place, and mitigate against the inevitable injuries. Right now, my only big concern is the front row.

    Between now and the World Cup, McKenzie must make winning every game his first priority (which seems to be the case). Blooding and building for a pay off in two years is no way forward – build a winning mentality and blood when required (which will happen due to form, injuries and dickhead behaviour anyway).

  • Tao Te Ching

    What we have to do is lift our win rate. The end of the year was obviously a big improvement, but this was still the equal worst Wallaby year in history. Link is the worst Wallaby coach statistically ever. People will hate that and make excuses but it’s true. If we start next year like we finished this year then we’ll have something to back reports of a renaissance on.

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