After a weekend of five Northern Hemisphere v Southern Hemisphere tests, the world rugby rankings are in: 1. New Zealand 2. New Zealand 3. Daylight 4. France/Ireland 5. Who cares?
Obviously missing from the list is Australia after a woeful win against Italy. The side’s multiple failings are well documented with no fiercer critic than coach John Connolly.
The changes for the Test against Ireland next weekend – Steve Larkam back to five-eighth, Sterling Mortlock inside centre, Lote Tuqiri outside, Mat Rogers bench – underline the point we made a week ago that the Wallabies are short a good inside back with Rogers no more than a bench player. And as we saw against Wales, Tuqiri is a handy winger but not that flash a centre.
Australia will meet an Irish side with its tail up after a comprehensive win over a second-string South Africa. For once, Ireland looks like being at full strength against the Wallabies and deserve to start as favourites, with a clearly superior set of backs and a useful pack.
Meanwhile, there’s New Zealand running rampant through Europe, setting a record score against England last week and now a record against France, which was the number two rated side. France actually wasn’t as bad as the 47-3 score suggests – it’s just that the All Black defence was incredible and the counter-attack pretty damned fine as well.
With the World Cup in mind though, there is one little bit of good news to come out of the weekend. Either team Australia will meet in the quarter final – England or South Africa – is no better than us and might even be worse, scrums excepted.
England’s defeat by Argentina showed they are a shadow of the 2003 team, allowing the UK Telegraph to endorse Ronan O’Gara’s claim that the England Premiership competition is rubbish.
So there’s a good chance Australia will at least make the semi-finals. On present form, that’s the very best we can hope for.