In the seven years since Australia last reached the final of the World Cup in England, the team have gradually slipped away from the leading teams in the world. There have been spates of good performances, notably victories over current world champions South Africa in the 2021 Rugby Championship and against France on home soil on Les Bleus’ tour of Australia.
However, the Wallabies were unable to sustain their efforts overseas, losing all three of their games in the Autumn Internationals. It does bode well for a trip to France in 2023 where Australia are backed in the sports betting odds at 12.00 to win the World Cup.
Therefore, the Wallabies have a lot of work ahead of them to close the gap with the leading nations. Australia’s slide began against England in 2016 when former coach Eddie Jones and the Red Rose hammered the Wallabies, securing a 3-0 whitewash. From that point onwards, Australia were on the back foot against the leading nations. New Zealand and England routinely had their number ahead of the 2019 World Cup both in the Rugby Championship and the Autumn Internationals, although Australia remained potent against South Africa.
Even though Australia’s 2019 World Cup campaign ended with a crushing victory against England in the quarter-finals, the Red Rose came unstuck against the Springboks in the final. South Africa are often overlooked when it comes to the betting odds to win the tournament, but twice they have emerged from the pack to beat England in the final in 2007 and 2019. Australia could learn a lot from the Springboks about how to approach the World Cup, relying on a dominant defence and a kicking game that does not falter under pressure.
The problem for the Aussies will be cultivating this spirit in such a short space of time. England will be out to re-affirm their dominance over the Wallabies in their summer tour of Australia. Australia have talented flair players at their disposal, but not a lot of experience in the ranks outside of James O’Connor, James Slipper, Reece Hodge and Allan Alaalatoa. The Red Rose will arrive with a point to prove, especially Jones, who has made no secret of his desire to turn the screw on his compatriots.
However, England have struggled against teams that play a compact defence, notably South Africa, but also Scotland in the Six Nations. Jones’ men have been beaten twice in a row by their rivals to the north, who have frustrated England before taking their chances at the other end. Australia have the chance to build the same system to stifle an attacking team that will only stand them in good stead against France and New Zealand in the 2023 World Cup.
Scoring points has not been an issue for the Wallabies, conceding over 20 points in seven of their 11 games in 2021. The problems were also evident in the 2019 World Cup against England, conceding 40 points when it mattered the most. Dave Rennie has performed well enough in the circumstances to date in his coaching role, but arguably the biggest measure of Australia’s progress under his tenure will come against one of his predecessors this summer.