The Wallabies annual resurrection tour to the Northern Hemisphere kicks off on October 30. After the disappointment of not romping into a Grand Slam last year, the ARU took no chances this time round and excluded Ireland (a draw last time round) and Scotland (a shocking loss) from this year's schedule.
It's been a strange season for the Wallabies, but only strange in the sense that it is always this strange, so not strange at all. Big losses, great nail-biting victories and the usual disappointments all mixed up with a healthy dose of promise for the future and resignation at the present.
Another crop of kiddies were thrown into the mix by Robbie Deans, and even more have been plucked from the obscure 7s circuit for this tour to give hope to any player running around in Club Rugby or Subbies that their own call up must be only a matter of months away.
How will this ramshackle mob, a combination of creche and nursing home, handle the pressure?
October 30, Hong Kong
After 10 straight losses to the All Blacks, who are also on the brink of their biggest ever winning streak, you'd think the Wallabies would have no chance this time round. And you'd be right.
The Wallabies are notoriously bad travellers and struggle against the All Blacks whenever they play them outside Sydney. Clearly the distractions from Sydney's large Kiwi population has All Black minds sunbaking on Bondi Beach at kick-off.
Deans' strategy to overcome the travelling hoodoo is a clever one and explains why so many 7s players are in the squad. Hong Kong is most famous Rugby-wise for its annual Hong Kong 7s tournament, the biggest 7s tournament there is. So expect him to throw all his 7s players into the starting line-up as they're familiar with the ground and the atmosphere. Alas they're also familiar with losing to New Zealand, as happened in the final of the Commonwealth Games.
Prediction: New Zealand by 15
Wallaby-of-the-match: Nick Phipps. 7s halfback shines with his drop kicks at goal. Is revealed later he's allergic to sand and plastic kicking tees.
Hairstyle of the match: Matt Giteau. Reinstates the mohawk in a futile effort of recapturing the form he displayed when he first had one. Alas everything Giteau is so 2004.
November 6, Cardiff
Welsh Rugby is still reeling from a perceived upset loss to the Wallabies during the last World Cup. They're also still reeling from losing to Canada at the World Cup in 1993. Indeed if it's reeling, it must be Wales. It doesn't matter how many Joneses they throw into the side, Wales continue to disappoint and hark back to the glory days of the 1970s, a fatal flaw and one very similar to New Zealand cricket which still suffers from a dose of unreality after Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe made New Zealand cricket competitive for about 6 months.
Expect another Welsh reality check against the Wallabies.
Prediction: Australia by 15
Wallaby-of-the-match: Van Humphries. The 34 year-old debutant makes Robbie Deans realise his youth policy was all backwards so he quickly drafts Justin Harrison and Chris Latham back into the team.
Hairstyle of the match: James O'Connor. Reveals Andre Agassi is more than just his sporting hero for his on-court achievements so takes off the wig.
November 14, London
Robbie Deans is the master technician, the chess player who is always seeing 15 moves ahead. How else to explain the Wallabies losing to England earlier this year during their Southern Hemisphere tour, prolonging Martin Johnson's reign as England coach and giving the English players a healthy dose of false confidence?
The Poms will be nicely positioned now for a fall of such epic proportions that they'll be a mere shell of a team come World Cup time just ripe for the picking. Alternatively the Wallabies will play dead and inflate English egos, expectations and Martin Johnson's ears even more so that the pop when they explode World Cup time will be even more satisfying. A win-win for the Wallabies.
Prediction: England by 15
Wallaby-of-match: Huia Edmonds. Trademark chip and regather sends the crowd into raptures. Unfortunately he wasn't even in the squad at the time and was wearing a suit by the sidelines.
Hairstyle of the match: Nathan Sharpe. Tries out O'Connor's wig. Puts it on backwards and no one notices.
November 20, somewhere in Italy
One month out from the game and the venue for the match against Italy is still listed as TBA. This is typical of Italian Rugby and why we like them so much. They are chaotic, unpredictable, disorganised and prone to tautology. Craig Gower's elevation to the Italian team for last year's Australian tour made no difference but they did run close to New Zealand on that same tour until both teams remembered who they were playing.
Since then they've proved to be no more than speed bumps for a South African team this season that later were shown to be absolute rubbish, even by Australia. Playing at home should make a difference. It won't. Australia will struggle because that's what they do in Italy.
Prediction: Australia by 15
Wallaby-of-the-match: Kurtley Beale. Can finally be compared to David Campese by letting in Italy's first test try in seven years or thereabouts with a mistackle straight out of the great man's handbook.
Hairstyle of the match: Totafu Polata-Nau. A late call up after recovering from surgery but the 'fro is so big (he's promised not to cut it until the Parramatta Two Blues win a match) that he can't fit through the doors of the change room.
November 27, Paris
Is the Caveman still playing? Probably. He seems to feature in the advertising for Foxtel's Top 14 Rugby that they use to fill in space in the middle of the night. Why they can't just stick to Tractor Pulling, the Lingerie Football League and SlamBall, all sports with much more credibility than French Rugby Union?
France haven't achieved anything of note since defeating the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup and if news from France is anything to judge by the match will probably be cancelled because half of France is striking to protest against the plans of the Sarkozy Government to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. You don't see Rugby players striking though because they want another two years playing for France. There's no youth policy in French Rugby, just ask the Caveman.
Prediction: Australia by 15
Wallaby-of-the-match: Rob Horne. Remember him? The invisible man of the Australian Rugby finally comes good scoring three spectacular tries and pulling off two try-saving tackles. No hang on, he's injured and wasn't in the squad, must be Adam Ashley-Cooper then. That makes more sense.
Hairstyle of the match: Will Genia. Doesn't cut his hair for the duration of the tour and after a quick visit to the Cooper-O'Connor salon has a 'fro to put Polata-Nau's to shame.