Aussie press worry about Wallabies' World Cup pedigree

AFP , SYDNEY

Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 18

The Wallabies don't possess the killer instinct, momentum or a powerful scrum a year out from the Rugby World Cup in France, Australian media said yesterday.

Australian rugby was again coming to terms with the tough challenges the Wallabies face ahead of next year's World Cup following Saturday's disappointing 24-16 Tri-Nations loss to South Africa in Johannesburg.

The Wallabies held their ground in the set pieces and lineouts yet defensive problems cost them their best chance to win at altitude in Johannesburg since 1963.

The Australians finished the Tri-Nations winning only two of their past 11 matches in the competition and two wins out of six Tri-Nations games this year.

The Wallabies' have a wretched away record against the big-four nations -- New Zealand, South Africa, England and France -- winning only once in 19 away Tests since November 2001.

"The Wallabies have lost their killer instinct, that is if this side has truly possessed it," the Australian newspaper said. "The longest the Australians managed to go without the South Africans responding to one of their scores on Saturday was 19 minutes."

"In other words, the Wallabies don't have a clue how to keep the momentum flowing their way. They'll either throw it away with a bad pass or a sloppy catch or they will commit a brainless infringement," it said.

The Sydney Morning Herald lamented that the Wallabies finished the Tri-Nations with no real momentum.

"The machine is still spluttering. The line-up not yet settled. They continue to get flustered. They often lack the finishing skills," the newspaper said. "Thankfully, at least they haven't lost their spirit or drive. No-one can quibble about the team in its most recent matches not trying or not believing in themselves."

The Daily Telegraph quoted Springboks coach Jake White as saying the Wallabies have run out of time to build a dominant scrum before their World Cup campaign next September.

White said the most important asset of front-row play, experience, is beyond the Wallabies' reach when four of their top five props are still in their first full year of international competition.

"No, you can't, not in one year," he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "You've got to understand, you were playing here with a loosehead prop [Benn Robinson] who was in his first Test. The tighthead prop [Rodney Blake] has got only a handful of Test matches. And both those props are 22 and 23 years old."

"You can't be that age and become the best prop in the world in 12 months. That's where you're sitting. You don't have them at the moment. And so much starts at the scrum," White added.

Australia will be looking for answers on their European tour in November.

"The Wallabies have the opportunity to at least look as if they want to turn it all around," the Herald said. "The eight-match tour through Europe in November will be the most anticipated Wallabies end-of-season visit in years because it gives the Australian selectors the opportunity to be radical and try a lot of new talent in new positions."

"Four mid-weekers and four internationals gives the selection panel the excuse to be outlandish and see whether fringe performers are up to it," it added.