Waballies No More?

With the 2008 Australian international season about to kick off, now is an opportune time to assess this season's feeble opposition and take a look at this season's Wallabies line up.

The Wallabies
The coach may be new and may be a Kiwi but Matt Dunning is still in the front row. For a guy who started most of the end of season matches for the Waratahs from the bench and has the world's least impressive supporters club website this is a pretty impressive effort. Obviously Michael Foley, the Wallabies forwards coach, has big wraps on him, big enough to convince Robbie Deans to pick him, and Deans knows his forwards. Indeed he once was one.

Elsewhere the pack is packed with Waratahs as it should be. After all, the Waratahs were by far the best Super 14 pack in Australia, though this may have had something to do with Matt Dunning being on the bench. Wycliff Palu also topped the try scoring charts for the Tahs, Rocky Elsom chipped in with a few as did Dean Mumm and Phil Waugh. Meanwhile George Smith touched down a few times for the Brumbies.

So with a bunch of rookies in the back line and on the bench (Burgess, Barnes - don't kid yourself, Berrick is lucky to make the squad, Hynes, Cross) Deans' tactics in 2008 are obvious - keep the ball in the forwards, don't let Berrick touch the ball, and let the Wallabies back three (or should that be the forward back three or is that a dance step?) control the ball and score all the points.

Ireland
Reports from last week's match against the All Blacks suggested that the weather in Wellington was the coldest and windiest the Irish boys had ever experienced and that somehow contributed to their loss. Well having been to Ireland and experienced a mid Summer gale and a mid Summer blizzard that felt like icicles through three layers of footy jerseys it is obvious that Irish Rugby players aint what they used to be. That the Irish players are soft is confirmed by their Six Nations and World Cup performances, where narrow lucky victories over Georgia and Italy confirmed their world standing.

There isn't enough luck of the Irish in a river of Guinness to help this team. Wallabies by 30.

France
France may have been runners-up at the World Cup, beating New Zealand along the way, but that counts for nothing when the scales aren't tipped in their favour. Indeed if anything demonstrated the true French Rugby spirit it was their grinding loss to the aerial ping pongers of Argentina.

And with Robbie Deans at the helm, the man who should be All Blacks coach, and a Wallabies line-up still smarting from a loss to a Northern Hemisphere nation (admittedly one that happened in the Northern Hemisphere so it doesn't count), the the motivation won't be lacking.

OK, so the French do have Sebastian Chabal in their side, a man who isn't afraid to let his hair grow and eats children, but as a Rugby player he hasn't played for Frnace since the World Cup and even then he was a bit part bench player, sort of like Matt Dunning for the Waratahs. But has Chabal ever kicked a field goal?

Wallabies by 25 and 22.

South Africa
It took a black coach to rid the Springboks of their quota system but what was wrong with a system that led to World Cup glory? It's been down hill ever since for South African Rugby, with an appalling Super 14 record and the usual bickering at home. So while it's been down hill it's just been a return to the status quo. For the Springboks this means breath sapping high altitude kickathon narrow victories at home and thrashes away from the comfort of their mad referee bashing supporters.

In South Africa: Springboks by 3
In Australia: Wallabies by 22.

New Zealand
The All Blacks are still smarting from their World Cup loss but when aren't they? If there's one thing an All Black likes it's getting his revenge for World Cup humiliation out of the way before the next World Cup, and usually at the expense of Australia.

This year sees a brand new fresh All Blacks with a new coach and an exciting array of fresh faces. Oh that's right - that's Australia. The All Blacks have the same coach that screwed up all the pre World Cup planning and then screwed up team selection and match tactics at the World Cup yet somehow hung on to his job.

Still, if there's one thing you can rely on it's that it will be cold and rain in Auckland in winter and the exciting Wallabies young guns that have been mesmerising the Rugby World with their crisp passing and dynamic back line moves will drown in a sea of mud and All Black boot studs.

In New Zealand: All Blacks by 8.
In Australia: Wallabies by 10 and 17.

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