Sport Union Larkham backs Wallabies to reach WC finals

Larkham backs Wallabies to reach WC finals

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Assistant coach Stephen Larkham believes Australia’s improved depth will help them escape the so-called Group of Death and reach the Rugby World Cup finals.

Two-time Cup winners, the Wallabies are currently languishing at No.6 in the world – their lowest standing since rankings were introduced in 2003.

But even with a new boss in Michael Cheika and only four matches before the tournament begins in Britain, Larkham’s outlook is positive.

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“It’s not a lot of time, but I think the depth is there in Australia,” he said.

“We’ve got better depth in Australia now than I thought we did in the last World Cup.

“We’re in a hard pool – England, Wales, Uruguay, Fiji – and we’ve got our work cut out for us.

“But if we can get it right as a coaching group, we should be through to the finals.”

Larkham’s backing comes after his 1999 World Cup-winning teammate George Gregan declared Australia can win the title “with a bit of lady luck”.

The former skipper believes the Wallabies will be battle-hardened and primed for the knockout stage once they survive the pool matches.

In a defining week in October, the Wallabies tackle England and Wales on successive Saturdays at Twickenham.

Stephen Larkham
Stephen Larkham: “We’ve got better depth in Australia now than I thought we did in the last World Cup.” Photo: Getty

“It’s great to play tough rugby at a World Cup, at least one or two tough pool matches to prepare you for what’s ahead,” Gregan said as he paraded the Webb Ellis Cup around Sydney Harbour as an ambassador for Emirates Airlines.

“What’s ahead of you is three knockout games and you’ve got to be prepared for that, because the quarter-final is probably the most difficult game in a Rugby World Cup.

“It doesn’t matter what your squad looks like on paper, if you’re a little bit off emotionally or technically… or you’re maybe ahead of yourself in a quarter-final, then you don’t continue.

“History shows that occurs quite a lot in World Cups.”

Above all, Gregan says the team that lifts the trophy will have benefited from refereeing decisions, flashes of individual brilliance and luck with injuries.

“Any team who has won the World Cup and said they didn’t get a bit of luck along the way, I think they’ve got pretty short memories,” he said.

“In 1999, we were a chance of missing out and then Stephen Larkham kicks a field goal (in the semi-final). I think he kicked two in his whole career.

“Jonny Wilkinson did what he did against us in 2003, but England could have been out the back door against Wales in a quarter-final.

“And again last World Cup, New Zealand beat France 8-7 (in the final). It was a penalty kick by (Francois) Trinh-Duc, who could have knocked it over from 45 metres out and it’s a different ball game.

“So you need a bit of luck along the way. You need a good, healthy squad and you need incredible belief and preparation, that’s for sure.

“But a bit of lady luck always helps.”


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