If anyone thought that this World Cup was New Zealand’s to lose, they may need to rethink that, after Australia beat the hosts in a Brisbane to win the Tri-Nations. The Wallabies have been building steadily the last couple of years, and finally secured the title they haven’t won in ten. The victory comes at the perfect time, giving Australia a huge boost of confidence and belief that they can be the first team to win the Webb Ellis Cup three times.
Australia line up in pool C against Ireland, Italy, Russia and the USA, in what looks to be an exciting group. The first match against Italy in Auckland is no gimme for the Australians, even though there is a nine place difference in the IRB World Rankings, the results between the two sides are usually close. This match will serve as great preparation for their most anticipated game in the pool against Ireland.
Ireland will serve as the biggest hurdle for the Australians in their quest to top the pool, the team that does that will go on to play the runner-up in pool D, which is likely to be either Wales, Fiji or Samoa, the loser will most likely play defending World Cup champions South Africa. Australia will fancy their chances of coming out on top, but they can not afford to take things lightly.
Australia come into this World Cup with players in the form of their lives; Quade Cooper and Will Genia are the most potent half duo in world rugby right now, the way they have torn defences apart in the last year has been a sight to behold. Genia’s ability to exploit tiring defender’s around the ruck is his best asset, he also has the pace to convert those breaks into points. Cooper’s transformation from rebel to star has been a big part of Australia’s resurgence, his attacking kicks and passing to men running a line have been creating tries for both Australia, and his club team the Queensland Reds.
James Horwill has recently taken over the captaincy from Rocky Elsom, the dynamic forward captained the Queensland Reds to their first ever Super Rugby title this year, and thoroughly deserves to lead the Wallabies in the World Cup. Along side him in the back row will be flanker David Pocock, Pocock has been a stand-out for the Australians since he made his debut in 2008, his ability to pilfer the ball at the ruck has seen him rival Richie McCaw as the best openside in the world.
Prediction – Australia have been running hot, and deserve to be one of the favourites to take home the trophy. Coach Robbie Deans will be happily travelling back to his homeland with a team that has the ability to rip any team apart. If everything goes to plan, the Australians will meet England in the Semi-finals. This game would be a repeat of the quarter-final at the 2007 World Cup in France. Australia will want to reverse that result, going down to an English team that made it all the way to the decider. As long as they play their natural game, Australia have the team that can win the cup, and add to the growing trophy cabinet. Topping pool C is the first task, they should do that, and I think they can go all the way to the Grand Final. The Webb Ellis Cup could be staying in Oceania, but in green and gold hands.
By Alex Barlow-Smith