Australian media all but writing off World Cup hopes

‘Winning the Webb Ellis Trophy is the culmination of a good structure, not the answer to a bad one’

They’re a fiercely competitive bunch, the Aussies, and as much as they love winning they hate losing even more.

How then are they coping after losing yesterday’s test match for the ages at the Aviva stadium?

Despite Ireland’s 26-23 win subjecting the Wallabies to their fifth defeat in six and leaving them on the brink of losing three matches in an autumn (or spring if you’re down under) for the first time since 2005, there seems to have been a measured response rather than any real backlash.

The Sydney Morning Herald's Stephen Samuelson believes that, while Eddie Jones was sacked for three tour losses nine years ago, new arrival Michael Cheika is obviosuly safe, even if they get turned over at Twickenham next weekend.


In a very un-Australian move, he writes, that any hopes of World Cup success next year are a pipe-dream: "It's at the forefront of many people's thinking, but it should be abandoned.

"World Cup glitter is fool's gold. Winning the Webb Ellis Trophy is the culmination of a good structure, not the answer to a bad one.

"Continual improvement should be the focus for the Wallabies; a higher winning percentage would be an excellent start. Besides, there is more than a lingering suspicion that Australia do not have the requisite cattle for World Cup success - plenty of show ponies, too few prize-winning heifers."

Despite this, Samuelson feels there are shoots of promise for the green and gold, and he argues their performance against Ireland was the best of the autumn. "The Wallabies were competitive against the Six Nations champions in every facet, except general play kicking.

“The relief Ireland showed at fulltime showed the level of physical commitment required to hold out the tourists.”

The difference between two sides? The golden right boot of Jonny Sexton and a fair few caps: "Jonathan Sexton schooled Bernard Foley and Toomua in the kicking department and proved the difference between the two teams.

“It all comes down to experience. Only three players in the starting side on Saturday had played more than 50 Tests and basic errors are mixed with sublime play.”

Samuelson's views have been echoed elsewhere, although not everybody is quite as down on their prospects in England next September.

Writing from Dublin the Sun Herald's Mike Colman reflected on a positive performance.

"Overall the game was a huge improvement on the last two Tests against Wales and France, and offers hope for the future.

"That future might not start as early as next week against England at Twickenham, but if the team can continue to improve, the prospects for next year's Rugby World Cup are definitely on the up.

“For the three weeks that Cheika has been in charge of the national side, he has preached a new approach: a game that would combine physicality with enterprise; confidence with anger.

“At times in the disappointing loss to Ireland, the Wallabies showed that they not only understood what Cheika has been talking about, but that they could actually put it into practise.”

However, The Daily Telegraph haven't been quite so sympathetic to Cheika and his troops. Jamie Pandaram writes: "Their defeat to Ireland . . . was an improvement on the previous effort against France, but again Australia fell short in key areas of the game.

“From the 50th minute of the game Australia’s scrum was atrocious. The amount of times this Wallabies side has lamented ‘that final pass’ this year has become a broken record. When will they talk of nailing that final pass?

“What Ireland did was predictable, and it worked.

“What England will do is equally predictable. They will bash and barge through the forwards, put up high balls, use the driving maul off the lineout and attempt to scrummage Australia deep into the turf of Twickenham and into oblivion.

“If they’re successful, the Wallabies’ World Cup plans will be just a bunch of words and numbers.”

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times