With 70 days to go until the World Cup, the southern hemisphere sides will get themselves well warmed up with a number of intriguing match ups in the Rugby Championship. Many say that the competition is never the same on a World Cup year, and maybe that is true, but there is certainly a lot to learn from the games – to the great interest of us rugby fans. The following article discusses one such aspect that can be learned from the weeks ahead.
Can Australia win the championship following the return of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell?
The Toulon duo have both been drafted back into the set up following the ARFU’s decision to allow overseas players with over 60 caps to feature for their side. While playing in France, Giteau and Mitchell have been key components to Toulon’s three consecutive European titles and they will have much belief that they are still up to international standard. However, in their absence the Wallabies have produced more than worthy replacements as Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper, and Matt Toomua have been top performers in Giteau’s position while Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane and Rob Horne have also done an exceptional job on the wing while Mitchell was away. That leaves us with the question:
Are the Toulon duo up to the standards of Michael Cheika’s Australia and will they bring any success to the Wallabies?
Yes they are. Matt Giteau may not be the first choice outhalf but he would be a top quality asset to the Australians at inside centre. With Bernard Foley at ten, Australia could have the best working backline in the competition as the world class Tevita Kuridrani continues to impress every time he plays at outside centre. This quick delivery from the 10/12/13 axis will be crucial to the Wallabies if overlaps are to be converted and their wingers are to be utilized. Once this is achieved, they could be one hell of a team.
Why we wouldn’t select him at outhalf
Foley, the Waratahs ten was instrumental to everything positive in Australia’s 2014 campaign with his dangerous boot and his creative spark. Unfortunately, he has since shown that he can crumble when the heat is turned up, as it was in the ‘Tahs defeat to the Highlanders in the Super Rugby semi-final. Having Giteau on the same field gives Australia the option to exchange roles and swap duties when Foley has an off day. Not only that, but he is probably the best option that they have at 12 anyway, as Matt Toomua looks like a better option off the bench as his versatility means that he is unaccomplished in one specific position.
Can Mitchell make the cut?
Yes, Mitchell will view himself going into the World Cup as a starter despite the fact that Rob Horne was picked ahead of him for the Rugby Championship opener this weekend. However, the former Waratah has been preferred to Nick Cummins who is a short-term replacement for Henry Speight on the bench while Adam Ashley-Cooper looks relatively untouchable on the left wing. Come cup time it will be neck and neck between Speight and Mitchell unless Horne and Tomane produce some real magic, but our bets are on the big Toulon man to come out on top.
Phipps, Foley, Giteau, Kuridrani; Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell, Folau
The Australian backline is definitely one that will keep any opposition on their toes for eighty minutes. Not only do we believe that Australia can now topple New Zealand and South Africa for the Rugby Championship but they might also be dark horses for the World Cup. With Michael Cheika as coach and the likes of Stephen Moore, Will Skelton, Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the pack, Australia are well and truly set for the challenge ahead.