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Can Australia Reclaim Their Place at Rugby’s Top Table?

Posted on September 24, 2019 by David Hay

It’s been a strange few years for Australian rugby. Since reaching the World Cup final in 2015, where they lost out to New Zealand, the Wallabies have experienced something of a decline. Where once Australia were one of the most feared sides in world rugby, results have become more hit-and-miss, with every step forward seemingly being tempered by two steps back.

A recent victory over New Zealand in the Rugby Championship will have given hope to Aussie rugby fans that brighter times may lie on the horizon, but there could be a ways to go before we can consider Australia on the same level as New Zealand, South Africa, and Wales.

The upcoming World Cup offers Australia the perfect chance to reaffirm their traditional place as one of the top three or four teams in the world. The latest world rugby rankings have Australia in sixth position, but a strong showing in Japan could see the Wallabies rise up the ladder towards the top once again, even if the latest Rugby Union odds from Betfair cast the Aussies as outsiders.

Australia are in Pool D along with Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay – a group which shouldn’t pose too many problems for Michael Cheika’s men. Wales are without question one of the form sides in world rugby at the moment, and beat Australia last autumn in Cardiff. However, before that match it had been some ten years since Wales had got the better of the Wallabies, and Australia must use that psychological factor to their advantage.

Georgia are a rugby nation on the rise, with the latest rankings seeing them placed as the twelfth best team in the world, ahead of Italy. That said, you would always expect Australia’s quality to shine through against such opposition, and the same can be said for Uruguay and Fiji, although the South Pacific side have been known to cause an upset in the past.

Indeed, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay were in Australia’s pool in the last World Cup, so the Wallabies will know what is required having beaten all three on their way to eventually making the final.

The nature of the Rugby World Cup is that it is the perfect stage on which to demonstrate improvement and kick-start a new era. If Australia can put together a decent run, then the mixed bag that has been the last few years can be swiftly forgotten, and new memories can be made.

To stand a chance of success, the experience of the likes of captain Michael Hooper, scrum-half Will Genia and winger Adam Ashley-Cooper will be vital. A good rugby team hinges on players who have been there and done it, mixed in perfect chemistry with hungry young talent.

In an era where international rugby appears to be getting stronger and stronger, Australia will have their work cut out to make it back to the very top of the sport. A good start in Japan will be vital, and if Australia’s opening game against Fiji in Sapporo goes smoothly, then who’s to say they can’t build some momentum and go on a memorable run once again. On a stage where the world will be watching, it’s time for the next heroes of Australian rugby to step forward.

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