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Cup chances on the line in northern festival

Date

Spiro Zavos

Wallabies' opponents ... Philippe Saint Andre and his players preparing for the Test.

Wallabies' opponents ... Philippe Saint Andre and his players preparing for the Test. Photo: AFP

ABOUT 7am on Sunday, Sydney time, the Wallabies run on to the Stade de France to play the hosts. The Test is one of 10 to be played during the weekend, starting with a double-header in Wales, where Russia meet the USA and Samoa take on Canada. In Montevideo, Uruguay host Portugal, while the usual suspects are also doing their stuff - England play Fiji, Wales face Argentina, Italy meet Tonga, Ireland do battle with South Africa, Romania take on Japan and Scotland host New Zealand at Murrayfield.

This festival of rugby ends on December 1, after more than 30 Tests, when the Wallabies play Wales at the Millennium Stadium at Cardiff. There is a serious side to the thrills and spills. On December 3, the IRB announces the rankings for the 2015 Rugby World Cup tournament to be played in England. These rankings will take into account the results of November-December Tests. The cup rankings are often crucial to the outcome of the tournament.

Australia are ranked No.2 in the world, with New Zealand (1) leading South Africa (3) and England (4). If the Wallabies hold this ranking or slip down only one place, they will end up in the half of the draw for the 2015 cup that does not include the All Blacks. A win against France, ranked No.5, will help this cause significantly. France are 0.06 ranking points behind England. Wales are 0.77 points behind France. As the Wallabies and the All Blacks are playing England and Wales during the festival, it can be asserted that the first shots of the 2015 cup are going to be fired in this month.

The dominance of the cup tournament in the organisation of the game is sometimes (but not by me) put up as the ugly side of the professionalising of the code. The fact is, however, as the 30-Test festival indicates, professionalism has not destroyed the best features of the amateur game. It has, in fact, enhanced them. There is more touring at all levels of the game now than ever there was in the past. This is something that lovers of rugby must applaud. The concept of the tour remains as much an essential ingredient in the DNA of the rugby union games (as opposed to the other football codes) as it did in 1888 when a New Zealand Native side toured Britain, Australia (playing VFL football in Victoria) and New Zealand playing 107 matches: and a British side toured Australia (again playing VFL football in Victoria) and New Zealand. Running with the ball is no longer the distinctive feature of the rugby union game. But the imperative of the touring ethic, an instinct encouraged by Dr Arnold, who was an inveterate traveller, remains at the heart of the game.

After 17 years as a professional code, rugby union still remains a game for all sizes and all degrees of fitness. This is another welcome carry-over from the amateur era. When the Wallabies and the French line up for the anthems there will the tall second-rowers, the front-row fatties (now six of them in the 23-man squad), the whippy outside backs and the small, wiry halves. This physical democracy of the game, which has been an IRB priority in its approach to drafting the laws of the game, is an important part of rugby's tremendous recent spread through Africa, the Americas and into Asia.

Now back to the din and sweat of the Stade de France. This will be Robbie Deans's 68th Test as Wallabies coach, breaking Bob Dwyer's record of 67 Tests. Matthew Alvarez, the ARU's expert statistician, says when you exclude Tests against the All Blacks from his record, Deans's winning percentage increases from 58 per cent to 73.5 per cent.

The comparison with other Wallabies coaches is instructive. Greg Smith's per cent rise is 63 to 85, Rod Macqueen's 79 to 81, Bob Dwyer's 66 to 79, Alan Jones's 65 to 76, John Connolly's 64 to 75, and Eddie Jones's 58 to 61.

In summary: Deans and the Wallabies need a win against France to set up the conditions for a successful 2015 cup campaign.

Email- spiro@theroar.com.au

5 comments so far

  • Good luck to Nathan Sharpe and his mob of Wallabies for this important Test match against the French. Stick it to 'em !
    As current form suggests this should be a victory for the Wallabies, just as any Test match should require. As Spiro states the RWC 2015 starts now !
    Hence good luck also to the Bargies, Samoa and Fiji as well. Wouldn't it be great (and satisfying) to see the Southern Hemisphere teams cramming the top (5) spots in the World Rankings !
    Therefore, it should be an interesting couple of weekends for all dedicated Southern Hemisphere Rugby supporters with mandatory sleep-deprivation a prerequisite !

    Commenter
    Machooka
    Location
    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    November 10, 2012, 9:55AM
    • Yes sadly Spiro, a lot of rugby people still miss the 30 plus, in some cases, tours by national teams through the U.K. and France, along with the so called "treks" across South Africa and the high velts. As we know, a lot of those tours would last up three months or so, with squads of up around thirty odd players and management. Even now it would be nice to see something like that happen again,but sadly with the professional era upon us,it would be like pitching water into the wind, with a pitchfork.

      Commenter
      Muzzo
      Location
      Orange
      Date and time
      November 10, 2012, 2:44PM
      • It's not the Wallabies need to win against France, Spiro. It's the need for the ARU to NOW, start developing of a second tier competition. In this loss to France, it is quite evident, that this needs to happen. The French have in place a very strong club competition, from which they can draw from. With the quality of player and foreign international player input, they have in the comp. This has only made French rugby stronger. The Wallabies can no longer use their injuries as an excuse, as the finger is fair and squarely pointed at the ARU. Forget the "old school tie" garbage, that the ARU still acknowledges. They need to get off their backsides, promote, get major sponsors and get back to grass roots, for this to happen. It happens around the rest of the world, why not here?. The game itself is a truly international game, and if we want to still have our high ranking (currently No.2), we have to act accordingly.

        Commenter
        Muzzo
        Location
        Orange
        Date and time
        November 11, 2012, 9:44AM
        • Yes,

          and if you exclude Dean's losses, he will be at 100%

          Commenter
          Crusaders.Fan
          Date and time
          November 13, 2012, 2:56PM
          • But you reminded me of Eddie Jones. The best thing NZ ever did was lose to Australia in 2003 RWC, keep Eddie in the gig for another few years.

            Commenter
            Crusaders.Fan
            Date and time
            November 13, 2012, 2:57PM

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