Sport Union Can the Wallabies survive the group of death?
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Can the Wallabies survive the group of death?

Former Wallabies star Israel Folau is reportedly registered to play league for Tonga.
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It’s one of the benefits of being a top four-ranked nation; you are rewarded with an easier path in the main international tournament every four years.

But that’s not the path the Wallabies will face at this year’s World Cup, which kicks off Saturday morning.

Australia has been placed alongside hosts England, 2013 Six Nations winners Wales, dangerous Fiji and minnows Uruguay in Pool A.

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It’s a horrendously difficult group and by far the toughest of the four pools with rivals New Zealand, South Africa and France all given easier groups.

In each five-team pool the top two teams progress on to the quarter-finals.

The Wallabies will need to win at least three of their four matches to ensure they progress to the knockout stages.

Even if they do win three from four it may come down to points difference, so a perfect record may be needed to ensure an easier quarter-final.

Australia has never failed to make the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup. Can Michael Cheika keep that run going? Photo: Getty
Australia has never failed to make the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup. Can Michael Cheika keep that run going? Photo: Getty

Finishing top of their pool has to be Australia’s aim. If they do they will most likely face Samoa in the next stage, instead of South Africa, and they will avoid the dominant All Blacks in the semi-finals if they defeat the Samoans.

Finish second and it is bruising dates with the Springboks and then the Kiwis before even reaching the final. That may be mission impossible.

England has beaten the Wallabies at Twickenham in both 2014 and 2013, and historically the host nation always does well at World Cups.

With huge home support and a big forward pack, the men in white present a huge challenge.

Australia has not lost a game to Wales since 2008. But in the past three years the winning margin has been five points or less every time, often with a last-minute penalty or try needed.

The Welsh are no pushovers, have a canny coach in Warren Gatland and will be gunning to end that streak.

Fiji cannot be underestimated either. Our Pacific neighbours play an entertaining, fast-paced brand of rugby that is unpredictable and hard to defend against.

They love to pull out upsets – they knocked Wales out of the 2007 World Cup – and have a squad brimming with European and Super Rugby experience.

Quade Cooper is looking to exorcise his World Cup demons. Photo: Getty
Quade Cooper is looking to exorcise his World Cup demons. Photo: Getty

Uruguay, well in all due respect, haven’t got a hope in hell and the Wallabies need to record a cricket score against the South Americans.

Still, Australia has to be at its very best at the very beginning to have any chance of success at this World Cup.

Any early slip up and Israel Folau and co will be on their way out of Heathrow.

So how did the Wallabies get in this mess?

World Rugby (stupidly) decided to conduct the draw for this tournament way back in December 2012.

Australia, then ranked third, was in Pot 1 while in Pot 2 sat England (5th) and Wales (9th) were way back in Pot 3 after a disastrous season.

So thanks to a combination of the Welsh horror run and pure bad luck, the Wallabies have been given the short straw.

The upside? If Australia can fight its way out of the World Cup’s group of death they will be battle-hardened and ready for knockout rugby.

They have already defeated the All Blacks and Springboks this year on their way to winning the Rugby Championship.

Tough pool games will have them primed for the hardest opposition ahead.

To win the World Cup they have to do it the hard way, there are no shortcuts for Michael Cheika’s men now.

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