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The Rugby Championship is a litmus test for Wallaby optimism

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Roar Rookie
2nd June, 2023
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1250 Reads

Social media was flooded with images of Jerry Collins this week. What a treat seeing ill-fitting ‘Canes jerseys, bearded Bulls and gnarly Schalk Burger getting a proverbial snotklap from big Jerry!

Burger getting hammered didn’t happen frequently and it brought back memories of plucky teams creating unique styles to combat the rampant NZ sides of the early Super 12 and 14 iterations. Maybe you remember the Tahs side that made the final in 2009? Superstars abounded including, quite topically one Lote Tuqiri who had switched from League and did appear in the SOO for QLD.

It seemed easier to get a view on what the Tri-Nations or The Rugby Championship would look like when all of the nations were involved – even the Argies- in Super Rugby.

This year with the RWC looming, it’s anyone’s guess. Or its Andy Farrell’s depending on who you talk to.

Super Rugby Pacific has been action packed and at times pretty darn interesting.

It no longer has the grunt that it used to, nor the unpredictability that it used to – a few upsets being the exception – but there has been entertainment. In the Australian comp, the Reds have gotten better, ACT has been good, the Tahs have had some flashes, even the Force and Rebels have gotten better.

One of the big takeaways may actually be that the Wallabies might not be as bad as expected in the early part of the year. Maybe that’s the Eddie Jones factor playing up? There certainly seems to be some burgeoning confidence in the quality of the players.

 (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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There seems to be plenty of interesting backs to look at in the national team and Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi seemed to have a good time in Sunday’s exhibition match between the World-XV and the Barbarians. Reams have been written about the lack of tight forwards, and the fact that Will Skelton shouldn’t be ignored.

But what’s going to happen in this year’s TRC?

Fun fact if you Google “TRC” the first result is Tamworth Regional Council. Well played Rugby Australia, well played. Or well played Tamworth(?).

Smarter heads have debated the players and certainly more poetic ones such as Harry Jones, who has a very good series going at the moment.

If you widen the lens, there is a pattern that could predict the chances here. The Argentinians are playing all over the world. The South Africans are dispersed across different competitions, time zones and countries, even with the attempt that the Sharks made to get as many Boks back for the year.

There is not a lot of cohesion.

Whereas the Australians and New Zealanders are concentrated in one comp, building combinations, relationships or at the very least rivalries.

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In World Cup terms: Uncle Jake White used to crow about how many caps with combinations he could concentrate in the team going into competitions.

The starting ‘07 Boks were all from the Bulls, Cheetahs, Sharks and Stormers. In 2011 the All Blacks had firm combinations such as Woocock, Mealamu, Williams and Kaino from the Blues; McCaw, Read, Whitelock from the Crusaders as well as Jane, Nonu and Smith from the Hurricanes. They played together, they knew each other, they had combos.

This could devolve into a tautological treatise in Eddie Jones’s sprint mentality, or how some of these Wallaby backline players are breaking the mold, but let’s pause for some predictions and revisit those at a later point – say July.

The Argentines should battle this year barring a miraculous intervention.
The South Africans look aged and unsettled.
New Zealand is suffering pre-Scott Robertson jitters.

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Is there a case that the Wallabies could come good in July and get some silverware? Very possibly.

Will July’s TRC be a good indicator of form for the World Cup? Absolutely.

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