With the Six Nations done and dusted and the attention shifting back to the weekly games of club rugby, We’re going to have a very early look at the next major internationals, being the June tests. They carry extra significance this year, as it is the penultimate time the northern hemisphere clashes with the southern hemisphere before the 2015 World cup, with the November internationals being the last.
So without further ado, let’s have a look:
Australia – France
Australia and France are both defined by one key word in terms of rugby union: Flair. Whereas this key word seems to have gone missing for the inconsistent French over the tenure of Phillipe Saint-André, the Wallabies seem to have rediscovered this over the last season under guidance of Ewen McKenzie.
These 2 rugby countries have had some intriguing encounters in the last couple of years. For example, in 2012 Les Bleus thumped the Wallabies 33 – 6, but only 2 years earlier the Australians had dominated the French, winning 16 – 59. These 2 teams don’t do close games, or so it seems. The report card of these 2 countries read 42 played, 23 Aussie wins and 17 French ones, with 2 draws.
To kick this off with the cliché of clichés: What will happen will depend on which French team will turn up. Will it be the French team which pushed New Zealand all the way in the Autumn, or are we going to see the clueless side who got absolutely dominated by Wales in the Six Nations? Under PSA’s tenure, this French side has been consistently inconsistent, and have played great games right before horrible games and vice versa. They accidently stumbled to 3 wins this campaign, and somehow they played one hell of a game against the Irish. The thing their coach does control, however, are the substitutions, and these have been baffling at times. Against the Irish, for example, Machenaud had been outstanding, yet he was subbed for Doussain who missed a relatively simple penalty and had been off the boil since the Welsh game.
The Aussies have been on a steady climb since Link took over. They started from rock bottom with a woeful Rugby Championship which ended on a high by destroying the pumas 17-54 in Rosario. During the Autumn Internationals the combinations started to click, and they played really well after the England game. With Quade Cooper thriving in his position as vice-captain, they were deadly once the games opened up a bit. Their traditional issues in the pack still persist however, and their scrum will probably remain their achilles’ heel in the coming season.
France will have to target the scrum which is the Wallabies’ traditional weak point if they wish to control the tests. Kicking should be kept to a minimum by both teams, as they both have impressive counter attacking weapons in the form of Folau and Huget. We’re expecting some very open contests and a lot of running rugby, except if France insist on booting away possession to arguably the best counter-attacking fullback in world rugby. The positional battle which will define these series, apart from the obvious match-ups in the backs, has to be that of the back row. With Picamoles lining up against one of Palu or Higginbotham, we will be sure to see fireworks in the tight apart from the pyrotechnics on display further wide.
Australia to win the series 2-1.