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Wallaby woes
Richard Seeckts
October 4, 2013
Quade Cooper ponders yet another defeat © Getty Images
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English rugby followers may be missing something. Tickets have been readily available for Twickenham's November international against Argentina, while they are like hens' teeth for the Australia match, a week earlier. Stuart Lancaster's men could well find the Pumas offer the greater challenge.

The catalogue of Wallaby woes grows by the day. Not even the harshest of star gazers could have predicted 2013 unfolding in quite such a calamitous manner.

The latest news, of James O'Connor finally losing his ARU contract after a string of indiscretions, is a welcome indication that his governing body might have some spine after all. That he survived this long is testimony to the dithering weakness of his bosses.

The Wallabies' run of six defeats in their last eight games, with their two wins being by a margin of a single point, is their worst since 2005. And there could be worse yet to come. They are deservedly underdogs going into Saturday's game in Argentina, then face New Zealand in Dunedin before embarking on a five Test tour of Europe.

Last week's first half display in Cape Town was so inept that the Springboks were chastising themselves for winning by only 20 points. Rarely is a foot taken off the pedal as completely or as early as South Africa did when a 50-point margin of victory looked on. Argentina and New Zealand will not be so accommodating.

Three months ago, British rugby was cock-a-hoop about the Lions beating a team that few dared to suggest was, in fact, not very good. Irish rugby was distracted by the absurd brouhaha over Brian O'Driscoll's omission and quietly seething about the third Test thrashing. In truth, the Lions made heavy weather of beating a poor team, and if they take on New Zealand in similar fashion in 2017, they will be beaten out of sight.

Australians bayed for, and got, Robbie Deans' head on a plate, almost a year after Quade Cooper was ostracised for describing the Wallaby camp as toxic. Now they are rudderless, changing their style of play more frequently than they change Prime Minister, and making Australian cricket look well run and successful.

Ewen McKenzie talks about it being "frustrating" and clings to "bits and pieces where we have improved". His players go on about "working hard" but also "running out of excuses". True, there aren't acceptable excuses for repeatedly being smashed in the scrum, being unable to take high balls, kicking away what possession they get and being side-stepped by a prop. It got so bad in Cape Town that the Wallabies even lost the fights they started.

The malaise is not new in 2013, but it was partially masked by five squeaky tight wins over Wales in the year after the 2011 World Cup.

In 24 matches since that World Cup, Australia have scored a miserable 27 tries and not won any match by more than eight points.

Strapped for cash and slipping further behind two other football codes in popularity, the ARU has an unenviable mountain to climb. Sacking O'Connor should be the first step towards regaining some focus among those involved on the field.

World rugby wants a strong Australia, though many in England would prefer the revival to start after Pool A in Rugby World Cup 2015 is settled.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
WRITER BIO

Richard Seeckts' rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition's line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on ESPNscrum.com