Having only just managed to clinch consolation wins over Argentina, Australia’s 2013 Rugby Championship was far from the rousing success that Ewen McKenzie might have hoped for.
The Wallabies’ head coach will now have a better idea of where his side need to improve moving forward, but has close to no time in implementing such changes with a spring tour of Europe just around the corner.
There, the Southern Hemisphere giants will come up against England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, in that order, and are set to head back Down Under empty-handed, too.
A nation of such high rugby standing should undoubtedly hope for more, but alas, it just isn’t in the cards right now.
Read on to find out why.
One essential part of Ewen McKenzie’s first trial as Australia helmsman was finding his finest XV, a prerogative for any international coach.
Between his quandary in starting either Quade Cooper or Matt Toomua, discovering a synchronised back line and a pack that can show more tenacity than it did against the British and Irish Lions, there are considerable renovations to be made in the Australian ranks.
As if team selection wasn’t difficult enough to begin with, the former Queensland Reds boss has had to contend with the loss of James O’Connor, recently released early from his ARU contract for off-pitch matters.
That omission could go one of two ways: either ridding the dressing room of a burden to morale, or ensuring that the team lose one of their most promising and versatile talents, first and foremost.
Whatever the outcome, Australia have far from decided just what their most talented line-up is, and will need to do so fast if they’re to stand a chance of beating their European counterparts, all of whom are pretty much settled in that regard.
It’s no secret that the Southern Hemisphere sides are still showing some teething issues when it comes to the new scrum laws, constantly stuttering at the Rugby Championship.
Although still far from perfect, Europe’s packs have looked a lot more practised in that aspect and so could dominate at the scrum this autumn.
Stephen Moore is one such Wallaby who’s openly stated the transition period that’s inevitable in his side making such a big change to their game, and it’s a clear weakness for the northern teams to exploit.
To this date, Italy are yet to take even the slightest of results against Australia, losing against the Wallabies at every turn.
In 15 attempts, the Azzurri have lost 15 times, nine of which have been by a margin of at least 20 points.
However, Italy are now showing that they’re no longer the whipping boys of the Europeans bunch and saw out a far tighter affair in Florence last year, just about missing out on a share of the spoils after a 22-19 defeat.
The Italians’ performances in this year’s Six Nations was just another side of how they’re progressing in all regards after once being looked upon as somewhat of a laughingstock in certain circles.
Gradually chipping away at the gap between them and the rest of the world, Italy can no longer be looked at as the given result that they might have been, with Sergio Parisse set to help his side to their first win over the Wallabies.
This summer’s British and Irish Lions Tour was as humbling for the Wallabies as it was empowering for the visitors.
With the Southern Hemisphere sides having dominated in recent attempts, the Home Nations made a serious statement through their victorious trip to Oz and signaled a very plausible return to power for Europe.
Although the current controversy around the Heineken Cup and whether it will indeed live on doesn’t speak highly of the club conditions; the international game remains as strong as ever on the continent.
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have a burgeoning squad of stars capable of tipping the scales in their balance across November and are unified in their one cause of repelling the upcoming invasion.
Whether you are superstitious or not, this year brings with it a sense of fate for Australia’s trip north of the hemisphere and it doesn’t look to work in their favour.
As things stand, Ireland and Scotland are the only two nations of the five European hosts who can say that they won their last encounters against the Australians; but even then, recent records aren’t too favourable.
For example, in 25 outings (the last five between Australia and the five European outfits), the Wallabies have come out on top of 18—a very successful ratio all things considered.
However, it’s now coming up to the 50-year mark since several of the British teams last bore great fruit against Australia, with the 1960s being kind to the Irish and Scottish, in particular.
During the '60s, those two countries held a 100 percent winning record against the Wallabies, while Wales won one of their two Australian fixtures, and England were the only team to lose theirs.
Five decades on, and Europe looks even more respectable in the global standing and could soon go about turning the tide against Australia, especially considering that recent years have been so bleak.