The Rugby Championship featuring Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa kicks off later this month when the Wallabies entertain the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
New Zealand has won both editions of the Rugby Championship since Argentina joined the fun in 2013. Indeed, New Zealand has won all 12 of its matches against Argentina, Australia and South Africa since the Rugby Championship became a competition between four teams instead of just three.
Just because New Zealand has won 17 Test games in a row and back-to-back Rugby Championship titles does not mean that one should fall into the All Blacks at odds of 1.57 with Spreadex to win the international tournament yet again.
One thinks that Australia is a live contender for the Rugby Championship and one cannot believe that the Wallabies are available at odds of +600 with Totesport and William Hill, odds that could look very big indeed if they defeat New Zealand in the opening match of the competition.
The main reason why one is interested in backing Australia to win the Rugby Championship is that the Waratahs won the Super Rugby tournament and there is a strong positive correlation between successes in those two events.
Both the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship and Super Rugby got under way in 1996 so there have been 18 years in which both events have taken place. In 13 of those 18 years the winner of the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship has been the country that supplied the Super Rugby winner, with the exceptions being 1998 (South Africa and the Crusaders), 2000 (Australia and the Crusaders), 2004 (South Africa and the Brumbies), 2007 (New Zealand and the Bulls) and 2010 (New Zealand and the Bulls). Thirteen out of 18 equates to 72.2 per cent and recently the strike rate has been three out of three, five out of six and seven out of nine. Also, Australia won the Tri Nations after the Reds won Super Rugby in 2011.
The Waratahs deserved to win this year’s Super Rugby title. The Sydney-based side won 12 of its 16 qualifying games, scoring the most tries and conceding the fewest points, before beating the Brumbies 26-8 and the Crusaders 33-32 in its back-to-back home sudden-death matches. The Waratahs had not beaten the Crusaders for donkey’s years so one can only imagine what taking out the championship by defeating the Christchurch-based team will have done for the confidence of those Waratahs players who will represent Australia shortly.
There are signs that Australia is making ground under Ewen McKenzie, the man who was coach of the Reds when they won Super Rugby three years ago. Australia got closer and closer to New Zealand during their 2013 battles and their 2014 home series against France resulted in three victories – 50-23 in Brisbane, 6-0 in Melbourne and 39-13 in Sydney.
And Australia does not have to worry about facing Dan Carter in either Sydney or Auckland because New Zealand’s premier five-eighth broke his right leg playing for the Crusaders versus the Waratahs and he is out of action for one month.
Playing New Zealand in its first two Rugby Championship games, particularly an All Blacks side minus Carter, is a blessing rather than a curse for Australia. A win in either match would mark out Australia as a serious player in the competition and result in bookmakers slashing their odds about the Wallabies ending the tournament in first place. And it does not hurt the suggested bet that three of Australia’s first four games are on home soil.
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