Why The Wallabies Will Survive The Pool Of Death

30 June 2015

Talk to the 1995 Wallabies and they’ll tell you that apart from being bundled out at the quarter-final stage, one of the worst memories of their Rugby World Cup experience was bumping into a supporters’ tour group in transit at Perth Airport.

The Wallabies were returning home while the supporters were about to board a flight to Johannesburg to see the remainder of the tournament. While most English and Welsh fans will disagree with me, I’m optimistic that will not happen this year.

Every Wallabies fan who has booked, or is contemplating buying a Rugby World Cup package through Flight Centre, knows Australia is in the ‘Pool of Death’ with England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. For the first time ever since world rankings began, three of the top six are grouped together and only two of them can advance to the knockout stage.

As it stands at the moment, Australia is sixth, Wales fifth and England fourth. But rankings won’t mean a thing when the tournament kicks off on September 18; it’s who can perform consistently over the six weeks that matters.

 The English pack will be looking to dominate once again. (Getty)

The Wallabies open their campaign with a game against the flying Fijians in Cardiff. Any backline team that includes 125-kilogram winger Nemani Nadolo has to be taken seriously. He’s been a prolific try scorer in Super Rugby again this year and will be alongside some in-form Fijians who are contracted to Northern Hemisphere clubs.

Next up is Uruguay in Birmingham. This will give coach Michael Cheika a chance to rotate his players so everyone gets a run early on. Uruguay is one of the South American qualifiers and will struggle to win a game.

It’s probably not an ideal build up to the clash with England at Twickenham, which will be a cracker and the fans know it. So much so, there were 650,000 requests for tickets and Twickenham only holds around 80,000! England is hoping to make it three consecutive wins over Australia at the venue.


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The home team would have warmed up with a clash against Six Nations rivals Wales the previous weekend, so they’ll be primed for this one. The English forwards have dominated the Aussie pack in recent years and they’ll fancy their chances up front.

It’s hard to know what the England starting team will look like because coach Stuart Lancaster has been rotating players all season; some of the selections forced on him because of injuries and off-field indiscretions. League convert Sam Burgess has been included in the 50-man training squad.

After some altitude training in Denver followed by warm up matches against France and Ireland, England will be ready to hit the ground running. If they lose to Wales earlier in Pool A action, this will be a ‘must win’ encounter for them.

The fourth and final game in pool play for Australia is another crunch game against Wales at Twickenham, one week before the quarter-finals. My optimism about the Wallabies reaching the knockout stages is based on this game. Since 2009, the Wallabies have won the last 10 encounters – including six in Cardiff.

The last five games against the Welsh have been won by no more than five points, but try as they might; Wales hasn’t been able to crack the Wallabies. They have some strike weapons like match-winning fullback Leigh Halfpenny who can kick goals from virtually anywhere in the opposition half.

Big centre Jamie Roberts and winger George North are world class, and they have a hard working and very mobile pack of forwards. But the Aussies know what to expect from the Welsh and I’m tipping that they’ll have their measure.

Warming up for the Rugby World Cup with Tests against the All Blacks twice, then the Springboks, Argentina's Pumas and the USA Eagles once will be an ideal build-up. If the Wallabies can finish on top of Pool A they’ll have an easier quarter-final and after that anything’s possible.

The Pool of Death will be exactly that for three of the teams, but I’m tipping Australia to survive it.

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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.