How Rugby World Cup 2015 Will Be Won And Lost

23 May 2015

With Super Rugby heading towards the business end, there’s plenty of talk about the make-up of the Wallabies in one of the most important Test campaigns in years.

I thought I’d give you five things that could make or break Australia’s chances of winning the Rugby World Cup kicking off in London on September 18. Hopefully after reading this, those of you booking your World Cup experience with Flight Centre will be more optimistic!

Obviously we’ll have a better idea of how the Wallabies are performing after this year’s shortened Rugby Championship featuring Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina and kicking off on July 17.

For now, I only have Super Rugby form to go by, as well as the efforts of Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and George Smith. They’re playing for French clubs and are now available thanks to the ARU’s decision to consider overseas-based players, provided they’ve played 60 or more Tests and held a Super Rugby contract for at least seven years at some stage.

 Israel Folau could prove a key player for the Wallabies. (Getty)

So what’s good and what’s not so good about the Wallabies?

The Coach: I believe Michael Cheika is the man for the job. He’s won the biggest tournament in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere with Leinster and the New South Wales Waratahs respectively. That’s a very impressive double.

No matter what happens with his Waratahs in the run up to the Super Rugby play-offs, as Tahs coach he’s kept a very close eye on the opposition as well.

Experience: History shows that aging teams do well at the Rugby World Cup. It’s not a sprint. You need to manage form, emotions and behaviour for the entire six weeks. You need ‘old heads’ on hand 24/7.

I believe Australia should take at least three, if not all five Super Rugby captains who all have so much to offer. Stephen Moore (Brumbies) and Matt Hodgson (Western Force) are in their 30s. Dave Dennis (Waratahs) and Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) are in their late 20s and while James Slipper (Reds) is only 25, he’s been around for five years.

Versatile back Adam Ashley-Cooper has played over 100 Tests. Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have 155 caps between them and their overall input with be invaluable as they’ve been playing in European conditions with Toulon.


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X-Factor: Every World Cup tournament has thrown up ‘special’ players. Sir John Kirwan (1987), David Campese (1991), Jonah Lomu (1995), Tim Horan (1999), Jonny Wilkinson (2003), Bryan Habana (2007) and Thierry Dusautoir (2011).

Wallabies fullback Israel Folau is an obvious choice as an early favourite to win Player of the Tournament in 2015. He’s now scored 17 tries in his 29 Tests.

Drew Mitchell has scored 30 tries in 63 Tests and I reckon he will add to that if he’s given the nod by coach Cheika. Keep an eye on Fijian-born Taqele Naiyaravoro. At 123 kilograms, he could create havoc on the wing. He’s signed with Glasgow but has a get-out clause if selected for Australia.

The good thing is that there’s plenty of competition for most backline spots. Phipps and Genia at scrumhalf. Foley/Cooper at flyhalf, Toomua/Leali’ifano/Giteau at inside centre and Kuridrani/Ashley-Cooper at outside centre, while Horne/Tomane/Mitchell/O’Connor/Naiyaravoro could find themselves on the wings.

History: England and Wales have been happy hunting grounds for the Wallabies; just ask the many fans who travelled to see the team win the World Cup in 1991 and 1999. Australia is two from two in the United Kingdom, so that’s a good omen.

If you’re planning on making the journey this year I can thoroughly recommend Cardiff for a match. Rugby is a religion in Wales and they’ll make you feel welcome as the Wallabies open their campaign at the Millennium Stadium against Fiji.

They play Uruguay in Birmingham and then it’s off to London to face Wales and England. Australia has a great record against the Welsh in recent years, winning the last 10 and 13 of the past 14, but England has won the last two and four of the last five against the Aussies.

Twickenham is one the great rugby stadiums and if the Wallabies can top their pool, they’ll be well on the way to becoming the first nation to win three World Cups.

Concerns: I’ve left the worst till last. Scrums and goal kicking. Opposition sides have been targeting Australia’s scrum for some years now and the referees haven’t been very sympathetic.

Super Rugby form suggests it’s getting better but it won’t really be tested until the latter stage of pool play at the World Cup.

Finally, you can’t win the Webb Ellis Cup unless you have a good goal kicker. Collectively, Aussie goal kicking has been behind South Africa and New Zealand and whoever is given the job in the United Kingdom will need to average around 80 per cent at least.

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Greg Clark

Greg Clark is the voice of Fox Sports Rugby and is currently in his 19th year at the network. He has commentated on Rugby across the globe and is considered one of Australia's foremost experts of the 15-man game.