In the calm before the storm of the Quarter Finals, every rugby fan is probably wondering who will emerge from the eight matches that will give a much better indication of who really has what it takes.
Despite a blistering start to the tournament, Australia are perhaps being discounted a little too much. Granted they are getting the respect they deserve after two impressive performances against Wales and England in the pool stages, but one or two confident All Black fans should perhaps tone it down, as their neighbours across the Tasman Sea are looking mighty dangerous.
Their back row so far has been the stand out of the tournament. Hooper and Pocock are of course taking the plaudits, with Pocock leading the tournament for turnovers with a total of 10 going into Scotland. But it is the depth that they possess there which is the most exciting part.
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McMahon came on in place of Hooper, who was cited for a shoulder charge against Mike Brown (and lucky to only get a week ban for it). He performed as a replacement admirably, being a key cog of the defence that repelled Wales for eight minutes, whilst down to 13 men. The back row will be key to a Green and Gold push for the Webb Ellis, and, if they meet, could be the key area that will disrupt the All Blacks from playing their game plan.
Matt Giteau. Rules were changed. Restrictions taken down, just to allow this man to have one more shot at the World Cup. The man has provided some solid defence from 12 whilst being able to bring with him a new creative game, which plays off of the new talisman at 10, Bernard Foley.
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Australia’s big runners have benefitted from the soft passes from the two playmakers. Foley himself, has been discovered as Australia’s answer to England’s supposed prodigal son, George Ford. He is young, but already commands his backline with authority (much better than Ford already).
The way he switched the direction of attack to score a lovely try against England, leaving a lot of the defence only able to watch was just a hint of what this boy can do under pressure. This, combined with the reintroduction of Matt Giteau, the veteran, outside of him, has seen Australia score 141 total points in a group that was largely tipped to be the hardest of World Cup history.
With their backs on fire, a trait historically associated with the Aussies, the big difference for the two-time world champions is the scrum. Typically a weakness that is exploited, the set piece has become a rock for them, with the Captain Moore even opting (out of choice!) for a scrum, which just demonstrates how far the set piece has come and how much more the Australian pack has become confident in their obvious ability.
Their dominance at the set piece, and around the park, has seen them get cleaner ball, a dream for star man Will Genia, but more importantly, front football which is a massive help at any level, certainly at the highest.
So while All Blacks fans are confident they can retain their title but they should definitely have one eye on their neighbours because they are improving fast and are looking more dangerous than ever.
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