We’re just over a few weeks away from the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the nation will be looking to the Wallabies to bring home the trophy from Japan. Warm-up rounds at home against New Zealand and Argentina have seen us walk away with a win, whereas South Africa and the All Blacks have gotten the better of us on their own home soil. Still, we have a game against Tonga to work out where we could tighten things up.
The pool stage
Australia will face Fiji, Georgia, Uruguay and Wales in Pool D and it won’t be plain sailing. Recently, Fiji decimated New Zealand Maori 27–10 in July, proving they mean business, whereas Uruguay may have a rougher ride against Australia: the sides met in 2015 at the Rugby World Cup and Australia destroyed the South Americans 54–9. Georgia could surprise them, though: the team are an emerging force and sit higher than Italy in the World Rugby rankings; they’ve beaten Scotland; and they’ve also beaten Fiji.
Wales won’t surprise them. The Australians know they’ve got a tough game ahead. The team have won the Six Nations in the past under their current manager, Warren Gatland, and knocked the All Blacks off their perch at the top of the international rankings. The team is packed with talented players and has the potential to cause a real upset.
If you were visiting online betting sites, picking a potential winner could be tricky. The Wallabies are strong contenders to go through to the next stage, but so are others in the pool.
Pool winners — or runners up?
This is a strong pool, with three of the teams ranking amongst the top eight. To win the pool and go through to the next round would send out the unequivocal message that, for all its troubles and the uncertainty of whether manager Michael Cheika is still the man for the job, the team is in solid form.
Australia must hope to finish the stage as the winners, something of which it is more than capable. A finish as runners-up could signal to other teams that any issues in the side have weakened it. They may feel this is their moment to strike.
Who would be the best opponent?
If Australia win pool stage, they’ll play the runner up of pool C, which could be either England, France, USA, Tonga or Argentina. If they’re the runner-up, they’ll play the winner. The team won’t want to face England, who had a solid Six Nations tournament this year and are one of the favourites to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The team can rotate their players a lot, so Australia can expect to face a strong English side no matter who is on the pitch.
Even though they had an abysmal Six Nations, France are never a truly easy side to beat. The team have announced that experienced backs Mathieu Bastareaud and Morgan Parra won’t be playing and only 9 players who have previous Rugby World Cup experience will be in the 37-man squad. Australia might fancy their chances.
They’ll be wary of Argentina, though. Despite winning 16–10 in a Test match, the victory against the Argentines wasn’t as comfortable as they’d have liked. Argentina fought back towards the end, making the final 6 minutes of the game a tense affair. Quicker movement in the breakdowns and better ball handling would have pleased the boss more, too.
If the Wallabies want to face anyone, it would be the USA or Tonga. No one is expecting either team to reach the quarter finals, but they could throw a spanner in the works for the rest of the teams if they do. In the last year, USA have only lost 1 out of 10 Tests. Tonga have qualified for the tournament by finishing second behind Fiji in the Pacific Tri Nations and beat both Fiji and Samoa in June. They could deliver an upset, but Australia will be able to gauge them better when they play Tonga in their final warm-up round before the tournament.
Australia may have to work on a few parts of their game before the tournament, but you can never discount them. The Wallabies will head to Japan with a strong squad as always and make every opponent play the match of their life. It’s the Australian way.