BEHIND THE DESK: Can the Wallabies win the Rugby World Cup?
WALLABIES PRIMED AND READY
FLASH back to October 31, 2015 when Australia were facing the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final in England and while we deserved to be there, we certainly weren't ready to break our World Cup drought.
Now, just under four years later we stand tall at the back end of what has been one of the most tumultuous seasons of rugby union in Australia to date and while it has hurt us dearly, it has only made us stronger. The Wallabies go into the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan as one of the favourites with regular front runners England, Argentina, South Africa and Ireland all just shy of the benchmark, New Zealand.
It is no secret that New Zealand are the biggest force in world rugby but if there is anything we have learnt from the past few months it is the fact that we have emerged from the whole (dare I say his name) Isreal Folau saga as a stronger unit.
While we may have an easier pool to get through than some of our rivals, the opening stage of the tournament will be the most crucial period for us as we look to establish a little more consistency off the back of some mixed results.
Michael Cheika may have had a difficult time picking his squad but with a potent mix of experience in players like David Pocock and Michael Hooper jelling with youngsters such as Rob Simmons and Taniela Tupou, he will have some positive selection headaches ahead.
KIWIS THE BENCHMARK IN RWC
THE team that can beat New Zealand will be the 2019 Rugby World Cup champion, which kicks off in Japan today.
Forget the world rankings, which at the start of the RWC have Ireland on top, it's the Kiwis that are the benchmark.
The Wallabies' recent performances against the All Blacks showed that.
After putting 47 points on a 14-man New Zealand team team in Perth last month suddenly Australian rugby was competitive again.
That lasted a week until normal services was resumed in Auckland with the ABs inflicting a fairly predictable 36-0 blackwash on their upstart opponents from across the ditch.
We will get a fair idea how the All Blacks are travelling tomorrow when they meet the Springboks for their opening game of the tournament.
Like the Wallabies, the Boks, have recently enjoyed rare moments of joy against the All Blacks, only to receive a quick reminder who's boss at the next outing.
The positive for the Wallabies from their win in Perth was it showed they have the game to match the best team, if they hang onto their passes and don't aimlessly kick the ball away.
With David Pocock joining Michael Hooper in the back row, the Wallabies have great ball-winners to support their ball carriers.
Backs like Will Genia, Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor asked some pretty difficult questions of the defence.
The question is can they do this consistently?
This is the year we regain our crown.