Rugby Championship: Breaking Down Australia's Strengths and Weaknesses
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Any side that gets thumped by a record margin will have demons to face in their next outing, especially when they have a new coach, a rash of injuries and the game just happens to be against world champions New Zealand.
That's the task currently facing Australia, a side beaten 41-16 in the deciding Test with the British & Irish Lions, and a side also looking to put recent controversies behind them and buckle down to impress new coach Ewen McKenzie.
Although the Wallabies finished second in last year’s inaugural Rugby Championship and enjoyed a reasonably successful end-of-season tour of Europe (winning three from four), off-field issues blighted the reign of former coach Robbie Deans.
The New Zealander clearly was not to everyone’s liking in the Wallabies' dressing room, and the behaviour of star players Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor and Digby Ioane did nothing for team morale while Deans was in charge.
Indiscipline cost the Wallabies respect both on and off the field, and it is a wonder Deans’ sides managed to play as well as they did with such an unstable backdrop.
Clearly, the Wallabies have had to struggle through their fair share of poor discipline in the last couple of seasons, but Deans’ man management was also questionable and one of the reasons for his departure after the Lions loss.
Cooper, recently recalled by McKenzie, is not the only player to have fallen out with Deans. The New Zealander also had issues with 92-time capped Matt Giteau, who chose a career with French club Toulon after controversially being left out of the Wallabies’ 2012 World Cup squad.
How Australia could have done with Giteau’s experience and proven skills as they lost player after player to injury during the Lions tour is anyone's guess. There is no excuse for highly-paid players not to behave professionally, but coaches also must be able to knit together a range of characters and draw the best from them.
McKenzie has already shown that he has those skills, and his relationship with Cooper enabled the mercurial fly-half to play some of his best rugby under his stewardship at Queensland Reds.
The new coach will also need to address the perennial problems of the Wallabies front row, which was highlighted brutally during the third-Test Lions defeat.
A World Cup winning prop with Australia in 1991, McKenzie knows a thing or two about the front row. The Wallabies scrum manages somehow during the Rugby Championship but it can be exposed in games not refereed by Southern Hemisphere officials.
And with Australia facing England and Wales in the pool stages of the 2012 World Cup, McKenzie knows a short-term fix will not be good enough.
But McKenzie also know there is an abundance of talent in Australia, and when all their players are fit, the Wallabies possess a squad strong enough to trouble any opposition. McKenzie has already made it clear that he intends to give them their head in attack.
As well as Cooper, McKenzie will hope to get the best from the highly-talented but misfiring James O'Connor, now that he has switched him back to his preferred back-three position.
Although playmaker Beale is out for the duration of the series with a shoulder injury, in-form Brumbies centre Christian Leali'ifano has shown he has more than enough talent to compliment the exciting Cooper-Will Genia axis.
Leali'ifano's goal kicking will also be crucial to the Wallabies' chances, as will league convert Israel Folau, whose two tries against the Lions showed how dangerous a runner he can be.
Up front, if McKenzie can find a solution to the Wallabies scrum issues, he has a pack of forwards lead by skipper James Horwill that can provide more than enough ball for their dangerous back-line.
One thing that McKenzie does not lack is confidence, and he will look to instill that in his side as they enter a new era for Wallabies rugby.
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