Two time champions Australia are going through a difficult run of form, but tend to usually peak in World Cup years. Can Cheika and his side finally find some form and take a third title?
The below graph shows yearly win percentage for Australia versus the eventual winner in each World Cup cycle.
Therefore, the 4 yellow bars on the far left denote Australia’s win percentage for the years leading up to their World Cup win in 1999 (so the left most bar is their win percentage in 1996, the next 1997, then 1998, and finally 1999). The grey bars in the 2003 cycle are England’s winning percentage in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. The dark green are South Africa’s 2007 cycle and the black bars show New Zealand 2011 and 2015 World Cup cycles.
The orange bars on the far right in the 2019 cycle show the average win percentage for a World Cup winner, as we don’t yet know the winner of the 2019 World Cup.
The yellow bars in the below graph represent Australia’s win percentage in each of the years of these World Cup cycles. So it can be read that last year (2018) Australia averaged around a 30% win rate in their matches. Certainly not the best entry into a World Cup year.
So what can we conclude from the above? It does not take a genius to see that Australian rugby is in a bad place right now. This graph certainly backs that up with 2018 being Australia’s worst year across the entire period. Playing New Zealand more often than anyone else will not help their statistics but all things considered, these figures do not look great for the men down under.
Perhaps the one glimmer of hope for the Wallabies is if we look at their previous World Cup Cycle. In the first 3 years they also had a fairly low win percentage and yet still made their way to the final. However, one major difference to 4 years ago is the general sentiment towards coach Micheal Cheika. In the lead up to last World Cup he was a fresh face with a lot of promise – this is certainly not the case now. While the players maintain their faith in their coach and appear to back him, his failure to continue on from the heights they reached in the last World Cup must surely be taking its toll.
You can also see from the graph that the Wallabies always perform best, or close to, in a World Cup year. Aside from the 2003 cycle their highest win percentage in each cycle has always been in the World Cup year. Australia are clearly a team that bring something extra to a World Cup, and should never be ruled out. What is concerning though this time however, is that there has always been an improvement between years 2 and 3 in each cycle – building towards the World Cup. This is not that case in this cycle, and unfortunately is likely to not bode well for Australia’s World Cup hopes.
[Group D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay]
Wales will be Australia’s main group threat. The Fijians have shown what they are capable of by beating France away in Paris, and Georgia should not be taken lightly, but Australia should have too much for these sides. It would be a major upset if Australia did not qualify from their group, especially as their record against the Welsh is very good.
Quarter final wise, it could be argued that (other than for momentum) it doesn’t matter whether they finish 1st or 2nd in the group. Australia are in pool D which goes on to play pool C. Pool C contains England, France and Argentina, and could finish with any combination of those 3 as the top 2. Obviously, on current form England would be the team to avoid in the quarter finals, but the French and Argentinians should never be underestimated at a World Cup. Any of these sides will be difficult for the Australians on current form. And if the Wallabies do make it to the semi-finals they will likely face New Zealand, Ireland or South Africa.
A 3rd World Cup is a tall order indeed for an underperforming Wallaby side. The best of luck to them.
Did you like this? Please see our overall World Cup team analysis here, and watch out for other teams when they become available.