Australia managed just four wins last year as well as suffering a humiliating defeat to Argentina on the Gold Coast, England thrashing them at Twickenham and Ireland claiming a history making 2-1 series win. They only won one game in November and that was against a very underpowered Italy in Padua.
If that wasn’t bad enough the media storm created by Israel Folau and his contract being revoked following homophobic comments will not have made life any easier for head coach Michael Cheika.
Despite all this Australia are still definitely capable of winning the World Cup.
One significant advantage are their pool opponents, now Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay should not pose a real threat to Australia and despite the abilities of these teams the biggest threat Australia will face is Wales.
Now Wales are in good form, 14 wins on the bounce including Ireland, England, South Africa and Australia but the last time Wales beat Australia away from home was way back in 1987 at the very first World Cup.
Now looking at Wales away form recently they aren’t quite the same team on the road, Wales struggled against France and Italy in the Six Nations, both times escaping by the skin of their teeth. Australia will fancy their chances there.
Australia will also have the chance to unleash arguably the best half back combination of recent Australian history in Will Genia and Quade Cooper both of whom have been in excellent form for the Melbourne Rebels.
Australia are so much better when Genia is playing, his speed from the base and tactical play is better than any other Australian scrum-half. Cooper is a genius, he attacks well and has a good mix to his play with clever kicks, an elusive turn of pace and an outrageous step. His game has also developed to incorporate him in link plays.
This half back mix could cause any team problems, that is Cooper can get his head in the right place and work hard.
One of the most celebrated part of Australia’s current team is the back row and that devilish mixture of Michael Hooper and David Pocock. Both world class openside operators deployed together to not just dominate but monopolise control of the breakdown.
The breakdown will be a key area at the World Cup no matter what team you play. If Australia get quick ball there will be hell to pay for the opposition Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks and Jordan Petaia are dangerous players and getting the ball in space crafted by a creative Wallabies midfield is what these players dream of.
If Australia can top their pool there is every chance they can win the World Cup. Dark horse is not the traditional Australian tag but one they will definitely be happy with after the horror show of 2018.