Great Wallaby flanker Phil Waugh has backed Australia to impress at the next Rugby World Cup, despite their struggles in 2022.
Dave Rennie’s outfit have endured a difficult campaign, losing a series to England, finishing third in the Rugby Championship before ending with three defeats out of five in the Autumn Nations Series.
That poor run in November included a first-ever loss to Italy, but they salvaged something from the year with a stunning come-from-behind victory over Wales.
Catching up with the top four
The Wallabies are currently sixth in the world rankings but are some way off the top four, who go into the global tournament in France as favourites.
Waugh believes that the hosts have the best chance of winning the coveted prize but insists that Australia’s recent clash with Les Bleus shows that Fabien Galthie’s charges are not that far ahead of Rennie’s side.
“I’d say France would have to be (favourites). In saying that we saw in the Wallabies game against France, they’re beatable,” Waugh said on Weekend Sport with Jason Pine.
“I still think the All Blacks are going to be a big threat. I think South Africa… overall I think the All Blacks and the Springboks.
“Ireland, the number one team in the world. They’re very reliant on Johnny Sexton.
“They’d be the four teams and as an Australian and an optimist… I think we could upset a few people too.”
Waugh insists that the half-back positions are vital to their chances and likes the quality of players who are competing for those two slots.
Depth at scrum-half and fly-half
“If you look at the history of who has won World Cup’s, you go back to ’87, every team that’s won World Cups have had the best nine and 10 – at least up there with one of the best nine and 10’s in the world,” he said.
“When I look at who needs to perform, we need a nine to stand up. Who’s that? We’ve got three choices at the moment between Nic White, Tate McDermott and Jake Gordon so a lot of depth there.
“(Quade) Cooper has done his Achilles so will he be back in time (to play) 10? Bernard Foley’s stepped up and performed well when he’s had the opportunity.
“There’s young guys coming through as well… There’s a bit of depth.
“The nine and 10, historically, have been the key players as to whether you win or lose a World Cup.”