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Rugby Championship: Five things we learnt from Australia v New Zealand

Australia suffered a crushing 38-7 defeat at the hands of New Zealand on Saturday, leaving Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones with a number of questions to try to find answers to.

The two sides meet again in Auckland next weekend, while the Rugy World Cup is coming into view, as it gets underway in France in early September.

Australia won the World Cup in both 1991 and 1999, but their chances of being serious contenders later this year currently appear to be pretty slim.

What2023 Rugby World Cup
WhereFrance
When8th September - 28th October 2023
How to watchStan Sport, Nine, 9Now
OddsFrance 3.75, New Zealand 3.75, Ireland 5.50, South Africa 5.50, Australia 9.50

Front row remains strong

While Jones must have a number of concerns, his front row is not one of them.

Captain Allan Alaalatoa and fellow prop Angus Bell were among the standout performers for the Wallabies in Melbourne, with the loss of the former to injury just before half-time proving to be a crucial moment in the game.

The All Blacks capitalised by scoring 19 unanswered points in the second half as the influence of Alaalatoa as a player and a leader was seriously missed. Even worse he is set to miss the Dunedin clash next weekend.

Hooker Dave Porecki did well in defence but was unable to make much of an impact otherwise and his replacement Jordan Uelese made little difference when he came on.

Half-back issues still remain

Carter Gordon was partnered with fellow youngster scrum-half Tate McDermott and the early signs looked promising as the Wallabies began brightly, but gradually their influence faded.

Both were replaced early in the second half, with the veteran pairing of Nic White and Quade Cooper taking over and enjoying no better fortunes than the two players they came on for.

Gordon has the talent to be a real asset, but still has plenty to learn about game management at Test match level, while also finding out the hard way that the All Blacks will pounce on any mistake made.

McDermott did his best, but he also learned a harsh lesson as he was flattened by Scott Barrett in the build-up to the first New Zealand try inside the opening three minutes.

Replacements made little impact

While Jones will have been impressed by some of his starters, especially number eight Rob Valentini - who scored Australia’s only try - he will have been disappointed by a number of others.

Perhaps of even greater concern will be the fact that a raft of replacements came on early in the second half and made little or no difference to the final outcome.

The fact that the Wallabies were unable to get on the scoreboard at all after half-time highlights just how serious the question of squad depth could prove to be for the major challenges ahead.

Immediate revenge should bring a response

Australia do at least have an immediate opportunity to get back on track, when they face the All Blacks in Bledisloe Cup II in Auckland next weekend.

The bad news is that the Wallabies have won just two of the last ten Tests they have played and have lost the last six times that they have faced New Zealand.

Of course, motivation will be high and coach Jones will want to see a big response from his players to avoid his position being called into question with the World Cup just around the corner.

His first game back in charge of the Wallabies resulted in a 43-12 thrashing by world champions South Africa in Pretoria, so the pressure is sure to ramp up if Australia are humbled in Auckland.

Add in a 34-31 home loss at the hands of Argentina just over a week ago and it is clear that Jones has yet to make any improvements.

World Cup hopes look slim

As two-time former champions, Australia would expect to be among the teams fancied to lift the trophy in France later this year, but that is certainly not the case at the moment.

Hosts France at 3.75 and the all Blacks at 3.75 are the frontrunners in the outright market, with 9.50 Australia lining up alongside Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal in Pool C.

Four years ago they progressed from their group, only to be hammered 40-16 by England in Oita, Japan, with the Red Rose going on to reach the final - where they were beaten 32-12 by the Springboks.

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