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Rugby Championship: Five things we learnt from Australia's campaign

With the next Rugby World Cup just around the corner, Australia have given themselves a mountain of work to do if they are to emerge as genuine contenders at the showpiece event in France.

Their Rugby Championship campaign could hardly have gone any worse as the Wallabies lost all three games, with their only point a losing bonus from a 34-31 home defeat at the hands of Argentina.

So, what questions have been raised from those setbacks and what lessons need to be learned to ensure a better showing at the World Cup?

What2023 Rugby World Cup
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

Jones return still in question

The return of Eddie Jones as Australia head coach was hoped to spark an upturn in fortunes, however, the former England and Japan chief has yet to make any impact.

If anything, it could be said that results have got worse, with the European tour of 2022 having seen the Wallabies push both France and Ireland all the way before going down to narrow defeats.

A 39-34 win in Wales rounded off that tour and was also the last game in charge for Dave Rennie, whose winning record was 36.40 per cent across 34 matches.

Jones currently has a zero per cent record and the really worrying statistic for Australia is that winning percentages have been on the way down from John Connolly’s reign in 2006-07 onwards.

Winning mentality has gone missing

As two-time former winners of the Rugby World Cup, Australia used to expect to always be one of the main contenders, however, they were so far off the pace during the Rugby Championship that that can no longer be considered the case.

Their European tour saw them lose by a single point to both France and Italy, while Ireland claimed a 13-10 victory over the Wallabies, before the Rugby Championship exposed them further against top-quality opposition.

Australia were beaten 43-12 in South Africa and 34-31 at home to Argentina, before suffering a 38-7 reverse at the hands of New Zealand in Melbourne.

Those results will certainly have put a huge dent in the Wallabies’ belief and confidence, especially with Jones having given a number of less experienced players an opportunity to impress.

Halfbacks far from settled

Jones opted to go with experience at halfback for the opening two Rugby Championship games, but then decided to make a complete change for the clash with the All Blacks.

Nic White and Quade Cooper made way for youngsters Carter Gordon and Tate McDermott in Melbourne, but both were back on the field by the first few minutes of the second half.

They were unable to make much of a difference as New Zealand scored 19 unanswered points following the restart, leaving Jones with much to ponder in the immediate future.

Without a settled halfback pairing in place, it is hard to see how 9.50 Australia will be able to challenge for success in France later this year.

World Cup favourites off in the distance

Hosts France and New Zealand are the teams heading the outright market for the Rugby World Cup, both at 3.75, with Ireland and reigning world champions South Africa next on the list at 5.50.

Australia are currently out at 9.50, just ahead of England at 11.00, with both of those former World Cup winners having seemingly picked the wrong time to go through something of a transition period under a new head coach.

World Cup are usually won by teams with a settled line-up and a clear way of playing, neither of which could be said to apply to Australia at this moment in time.

Familiar foes lie in wait

Australia can be forgiven for having a feeling of déjà vu when they take to the field at the World Cup, having faced group rivals Wales, Fiji and Georgia at the 2019 tournament.

Four years ago the Wallabies saw off both Fiji and Georgia, but suffered a 29-25 defeat at the hands of Wales in the Tokyo Stadium and eventually had to make do with second place in the group.

That saw them face England in the quarter-finals and they were demolished 40-16 in Oita, so winning their pool this time around will be the target - with Australia 1.33 to do so.

However, failure to secure top spot might not make too much difference overall, with one of Argentina, England or Japan probably waiting in the first knockout round whether the Wallabies finish first or second in their pool.

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