Rugby Championship Preview: Australia

Rugby Championship Preview: AustraliaRugby Championship Preview: Australia.

Ahead of the 2017 Rugby Championship, we preview the teams looking to get their hands on the coveted silverware. Next up it is Australia.

The Wallabies have been preparing vigorously with a gruelling training camp in Cessnock, near the New South Wales port city of Newcastle.

Coach Michael Cheika has been focusing on physical conditioning but also mental preparation in trying to instil a positive self-belief in the players that they can beat the All Blacks.

They open their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back matches against their trans-Tasman rivals, whom they haven’t beaten since 2015. In fact one must go back 15 years to the last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup.

Their task won’t be made any easier by the numerous off-field distractions like their worst Super Rugby campaign in history where they failed to beat any New Zealand opposition in 26 attempts.

To add to this, there has been the ongoing saga regarding which of the Australian franchises would be cut. It has been decided that the Force face the chop but where will this leave their Wallabies stars mentally.

Cheika’s side had a horrible June International home series in which they lost to Scotland and were given an almighty scare by Italy.

And with Australian Rugby having had such a torrid season at both club and international level, the players and management will be desperate to put the smiles back on the faces of the supporters.

Last year: They opened their campaign with successive defeats to the All Blacks but recovered with back-to-back wins, a 23-17 victory over South Africa to kickstart their campaign and then a 36-20 win over Argentina, both at home.

However, they were brought crashing back down to earth with a 18-10 humbling at the hands of the Springboks in South Africa. But Cheika’s side managed to secure a second-placed finish and finish strongly with a 33-21 win in Argentina.

This year: The Wallabies will have a point to prove after that dismal Super Rugby campaign. They finished second last year due more to the Springboks’ annus horribilis than their own strengths. We don’t expect the Springboks to be as terrible as they were last year.

But as the saying goes, beware of the wounded beast. And with no-nonsense Cheika at the helm, they are expected to play a confrontational style of rugby. They certainly have the players to put fear in the opposition.

Ones to watch: Keep an eye out for powerful tighthead Allan Alaalatoa . He made the second most carries of any prop in Super Rugby (87) while his tally of 126 tackles were comfortably more than any other prop in the competition. He maintained a 93% tackle success rate in the process – the best of any prop to make 35 tackles and was rightly named in SANZAAR’s Super Rugby team of the year.

As always, Israel Folau will be the Wallabies’ main try-scoring threat. After a slow start to the season, Folau opened the floodgates with the tries raining down from everywhere. He is a complete athlete as he showed with that massive jump against Scotland to collect a Bernard Foley cross-kick. Difficult to bring down and possessing electric pace, Folau is one of the top strike runners in world rugby.

Prediction: With the Springboks looking like they are out of their rut, the Wallabies will find finishing second a much tougher proposition. Third.

Saturday, August 19: vs New Zealand (home) Friday, August 26: vs New Zealand (away) Saturday, September 9: vs South Africa (home) Saturday, September 16: vs Argentina (home) Saturday, September 30: vs South Africa (away) Sunday, October 8: vs Argentina (away.

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