With the 2015 edition of the Rugby Championship having been claimed by the Wallabies, we look at nine things we’ve learnt from the tournament…
1.The Springboks aren’t the team they were 12 months ago
Injuries have obviously played an important role in the recent form of the Springboks, but even that shouldn’t excuse the poor performances that saw them finish bottom of the Rugby Championship without a single victory to their name. This time last year they were being tipped as serious contenders for the World Cup, but they will have to find form quickly to keep that dream alive.
2.The Wallabies are coming into form at just the right time
12 months ago, there were serious concerns about the Wallabies ability to perform at the World Cup, their recent form has dispelled this though. They suddenly seem to have found a scrum out of nowhere, whilst the backline continues to look dangerous. They must be aware that for the most part they weren’t playing against full strength sides, but they are looking good for the World Cup.
3.The All Blacks are beatable
It’s hard to criticise them too much given they narrowly lost to the Wallabies in the final game of the tournament having played experimental sides for much of the Rugby Championship. That being said, the final game proved that the All Blacks are in fact beatable, and may just help to slightly dispel the aura that surrounds the side as they prepare for the Rugby World Cup.
4.Argentina may just be the dark horses of the World Cup
It’s a bit early to be proclaiming Argentina as the World Cup favourites, but a few dodgy refereeing decisions aside, their victory over the Springboks in South Africa helped to prove that they are capable of not only competing with the top teams in the world but actually beating them. They have always had a solid pack, however we have now seen that their backs are beginning to click.
5.Playing two sevens actually works
There was much debate before the Rugby Championship about whether playing two sevens at the same time could actually be effective. The final game of the tournament for the Wallabies and All Blacks proved almost without doubt that when you have two players of the quality of Michael Hooper and David Pocock, teams should play them regardless of the number on their back.
6.Parity up front is still absolutely essential
We saw time and again that the side getting on the front foot in the forwards, tended to end up winning the game. For the first time in a number of years the Wallabies had a pack that actually competed at the set piece, whilst Argentina’s historic victory over the Springboks was launched off a solid scrum that allowed their increasingly impressive backs to really shine.
7.The youth are in ascension
Several young players put their hands up for selection during the Rugby Championship including the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jessie Kriel and Damian de Allende. Their performances during the tournament will have given selectors plenty of headaches ahead of the final World Cup squad announcements, but it definitely provides them with a nice problem to have.
8.Meanwhile the vets are struggling
Struggling is maybe the wrong word for it, but we saw on a number of occasions during the Rugby Championship that the experienced option was struggling, whilst being pushed hard for a start by the players under them. The likes of Dan Carter and Conrad Smith certainly weren’t at their best, however the coaching teams will be hoping they re-find their form asap.