Where to now for Australia (after 4/5 losses) in Rugby Championship

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After another loss, there are moments when teams and management have to face the facts. Times when results mount up, and the questions raised of; Where to now for Australia? (after 4/5 losses) in The Rugby Championship.

Questions will be raised due to the inconsistency of performance; combined with the 2018 Super Rugby results. It is not a time where either the Wallabies or any XVs rugby team can hold their heads high.

And the direction where these questions are pointed at, will be Michael Hooper [Wallabies Captain], Micheal Cheika [Head Coach] and Raelene Castle [Rugby Australia CEO].

Where to now for Australia (after 4/5 losses) in Rugby Championship

Watching the above video highlights do not show the whole picture. As many have voiced, it is a problem from the top-to-the-bottom. From the grassroots to the elite, Wallabies level. Problems in the established schools and club system. Problems that rise up to Super Rugby franchises; which includes the culled Western Australian union – so as the old saying goes, there is ‘trouble at Mill’.

Losing four of five matches, the nature of several of those results is surely confidence depleting. The initial match was a result they might have built on, until the ‘Beauden Barrett’ show at Eden Park; losing 40-12.

Then a much-needed win over South Africa, before the sour result against Argentina. That 19-23 loss was an unwanted result, that combined with this latest loss meaning Australia are destined for a ‘must win’ fixture next weekend in Salta, versus Argentina.

Lose that match next weekend, and they will have finished last in The Rugby Championship for the first time since the four-team format was introduced in 2012.

That would mean that from the heights of claiming the 2015 title, Michael Cheika’s tenure has deteriorated badly. And in a performance-based industry, the questions running through the minds of Rugby Australia administrators must be escalating.

New Zealand claim Sixth Rugby Championship Crown

Those administrators must be envious of their New Zealand Rugby counterparts. Envious more so of the operation and the organization’s successes on and off the field. How they have profitable internal tours; like the recent French tour….and winning those as well. Whereas Australia has suffered back-to-back internal June series losses; Ireland this season, and a 0-3 whitewash from England in 2016.

And performances have to date, not improved.

Not since New South Wales won the Super Rugby title in 2014, has an Australian franchise reached the Grand Final – in fact, their sides have less chance of reaching the knockout stages, due to one side being removed from the championship.

So when the options and opportunities for success are being limited, then it is only natural that more questions are being asked of the ‘shop front’ for Australian Rugby.

Which side will taste success? (if any) and how will that will translate to the grassroots support?

Repeated losses; as has occurred in 2018, are no doubt debilitating fans willing to support the leading teams. And that groundswell of disappointment can do more damage to brand Rugby Australia, than any controversy over Israel Folau or the success of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team.

This is due to the leading team’s losses; for the Wallabies and the Wallaroos as well in 2018, it has a counter effect on the other sides too. With few positive stories told, only ones of ‘why has it come to this?’

Raelene Castle needs to make important choices before November

If the Wallabies were to change the losing trend and possibly defeat Argentina next weekend, some might still ask if it is the right time to change for good? Ask whether the rot has set-in too far, especially with further challenges ahead during November.

On October 27, the third Bledisloe Cup test is scheduled. That might a challenge that few believe this current side can achieve – let alone the following schedule;

  • November 11 v Wales – Principality Stadium, Cardiff 
  • Nov 18 v Italy – Stadio Euganeo, Padua
  • Nov 25 v England – Twickenham, London

All of those matches will be tests of the competence of Australia to recover any pride this year. This side has been less than successful recently under the guidance of Michael Cheika; and if the organization determines that for the sake of the game as a whole, change might be needed, then time is running out for that decision to be implemented.

With a year until the Rugby World Cup, continuing failure is not a formula for success. So the drivers of the sides goal setting; which includes Michael Cheika and Michael Hooper, could all agree that ‘enough is enough’. The short timeline before November, and the window for any change means that harsh decisions need to be made now.

Not that it is a guarantee of any better results. Cheika would still be seen as the constant requirement.

Why ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater?’

However, decision-makers like Castle will have more than just a short-term goal like the RWC in mind. Raelene Castle and board members of Rugby Australia must consider more than just the next 12 months.

They must think on how to retain their place as one of the premier sports choices for school children. How not to lose ground further on Cricket, Soccer, Rugby League and Australian Rules. To decide not to, might be ruinous to the longterm place of rugby in the Australian sporting psyche.

Any change might be uncomfortable to conceive. But to accept repeated losses, and to accept mediocrity, could be counter-intuitive of a long-term role in Australian sport entirely.

Losing to South Africa on Saturday might just have sealed the fate of the Wallabies management in the short-term.