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Rugby Union: Wallabies almost post famous victory

Australia seemed set for a long overdue triumph over New Zealand on their own soil before falling to a 23-20 defeat in the Bledisloe Cup match in Dunedin on Saturday.

Leading 17-3 at the break, the Wallabies were well-placed to finally end a 22-year wait for a win on All Blacks turf, only for the hosts to roar back and claim the spoils at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The loss leaves head coach Eddie Jones still looking for a win in his second spell in charge of the national team, but at least this was a far more promising display than the one which had gone before.

And that should be a bit of a boost with the Rugby World Cup in France just around the corner.

What2023 Rugby World Cup
When8th September - 28th October 2023
How to watchStan Sport, Nine, 9Now
OddsNew Zealand 3.60, France 3.75, Ireland 5.50, South Africa 5.50, Australia 10.00

Lead allowed to slip away

Australia started strongly in Dunedin and scrumhalf and skipper Tate McDermott certainly showed what he is capable of as he led his side into a 14-point half-time lead.

Indeed, the Wallabies were right at it from the off as both Marika Koroibete and Tom Hooper crossed within the opening seven minutes of the contest.

However, a much-changed All Blacks side showed their mettle as they responded, despite losing key second-rower Brodie Retallick to a knee injury in the 26th minute.

After the interval the hosts outscored the Wallabies 20-3, with debutants Shaun Stevenson and Samipeni Finau both scoring tries and Richie Mo'unga landing a late penalty to decide the outcome.

McDermott, who personally enjoyed a strong showing, admitted: "Obviously not happy with it, but from where we were last week to where we are now a massive step up. A huge improvement."

McDermott was referencing the fact that Australia had lost 38-7 to New Zealand in Melbourne a week ago, although that came against a seemingly much stronger All Blacks line-up.

Fast starts mask defensive issues

Having shipped 61 points across their two meetings with the All Blacks, in total Australia have now conceded 138 points in the four games played since Jones returned as head coach.

That tally includes a 43-12 defeat in South Africa and a 34-31 home reverse at the hands of Argentina, leaving Jones with so many questions to answer, especially if the World Cup knockout stages are reached.

There defence becomes even more crucial, with games often decided by a single score as the pressure of recording the win becomes of paramount importance.

On the plus side, at least Australia showed that they can put points on the board against the very best, with New Zealand now 3.60 to win the World Cup in France.

Going over twice in the opening seven minutes in Dunedin made a statement, although the Wallabies also registered a try early on in Melbourne before being overwhelmed.

Being able to sustain that early intensity is also key if Australia are to emerge as genuine contenders at the upcoming World Cup.

Jones not given to doubt

Despite having seen the start to his return to the Wallabies helm begin with four consecutive defeats, head coach Jones remains the spiky, outspoken character he has always been.

His short succinct answer following the loss in Dunedin to being asked if Australia can win the World Cup was: "100%. As a matter of fact, I think we will."

Australia are currently 10.00 to lift the World Cup in France and, given that all of New Zealand, France, South Africa and Ireland are in the opposite half of the draw, there is an opportunity to progress to the last four without facing one of the tournament favourites.

And Jones is as confident as ever that things will come together for the challenges ahead in just over a month’s time, adding: "I think we're going in the right direction. There's a lot for us to be positive about.

"That’s how we want to play. You look at our team, we're a running team. We've got big men with the ability to change direction in small spaces and we want to use that."

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