Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Aussie rise a welcome sight

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Rugby world’s more thrilling when the Wallabies are weaving their special brand of magic.

Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Waratahs scores a try during the Super Rugby Grand Final against the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Waratahs scores a try during the Super Rugby Grand Final against the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's rugby reputation got a light kicking from the outstanding Waratahs. The balance of transtasman rugby power is finding a more even keel, which is no bad thing.

The recordsetting All Blacks rule the world, for now, but the Super 15 showed that New Zealand's supremacy is far from impregnable. And don't forget Twickers 2012, the incredible Irish test last year, or the physical mauling suffered against South Africa in this year's junior World Cup. The All Blacks, who run on some old legs, remain a class act but the world is circling.

The immediate question is this: is Australian rugby rising out of the ashes? Absolutely, I would contend. Whether their excellent all-round Super 15 season immediately translates into test results or not, the indicators are there. The Waratahs tamed and completely out-ran the powerful Crusaders in the Sydney final despite the close scoreline suggesting otherwise. Many of us wrongly thought the Crusaders' test-class pack would crush the Waratahs.

The Waratahs' first Super title follows an encouraging run by the Wallabies against Northern Hemisphere opponents. The Brumbies have continued to challenge, and the Western Force perform near miracles in AFL-dominated Perth. Confidence is up - there is a buzz in the Aussie game again because its biggest rugby market, Sydney, is on the march. Success will breed success.

A key New Zealand advantage - the Polynesian factor - is being permanently eroded by the changing rugby demographics across the Tasman. It's sink or swim in a competitive market and no Australian sport lies down for long. Moves by Ireland and Wales to capture overseas players might show Australia the way in sorting out their Achilles heel - the tight forwards. They've already gone down this track, snaring the Fijian wing Henry Speight who emerged through the Waikato system.

The Wallabies are a couple of world-class tight forwards short of rattling New Zealand's cage good and proper. They don't have anything yet to match characters such as Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Owen Franks. But there are signs - such as big Auckland-born lock Will Skelton - that they have a philosophy to sort that out.

A Wallabies revival is as inevitable as it is good for a sport with a small top echelon. The rugby world is more thrilling when they are weaving their special brand of magic. The Bledisloe Cup needs a makeover.

Here's something else to take from the Waratahs' victory: the Blues can halt talking any rot about John Kirwan being on track. Dave Rennie turned the Chiefs around straight away, and Michael Cheika has done likewise with the Waratahs. Kirwan isn't building - he's struggling.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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