On the contrary, probably for the first time since their glory days of the 1970's (when the likes of Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and JPR Williams weaved their magic), Wales will travel to Australia with genuine hopes, lest I say, belief of gaining a test series victory. Nicking a solitary test would probably be regarded as par for the course.
Australia come into the series fresh from an awful bushwacking in the first ever test match to be staged in Newcastle, New South Wales. Their turgid affair in gale force winds and driving rain is hardly likely to have gained them new fans in one of rugby league's traditional heartlands, although it may keep the administrators happy financially. The reality is though that the scheduling has left the ARU with egg on their face. A two day turnaround for players who had just played Super Rugby as late as Saturday night was not appropriate for a test-match. Scotland deserved to win, not least for the ARU's brazen arrogance.
The result also underlined what a lot of Australian supporters feared going into the June International window; that Australia may suffer in 2012. Watching some of the Aussie derbies in this year's Super 15 has been soul destroying. The match between the Brumbies and the Reds was one which I believed might be a humdinger. I ended up turning off the tv after one half, such was my agitation at the abundance of aimless kicking and lack of wilingness to just 'give it a go'. The fact that Mike Harris of the Reds, a player whose main attribute is to kick goals and not much else is considered one of the Australian players of the season so far says it all...
|Victorious Brumbies of early Millenium|
The players being pushed through the production line seem to lack vision, attacking awareness and just plain fun. I bet the Scots were grinning when they saw Berrick Barnes (a kicking automation), Mike Harris (another kicking automation) and Anthony Fai'inga selected as the inside backs. It hardly instils fear in the opposition does it? I realise Cooper, Beale and O'Connor were missing but it just highlights the alarming drop off in talent after some of the first stringers. Australian fans please inform me if i'm being overly harsh.
Trying to analyse the un-analysable
Despite this Aussie side suffering from a number of injuries and an embarassing first up loss though , they will still be tought to beat. Make no bones about it. Australia were also treated to a fair dollop of humble pie in their first match of 2011, when they lost to Samoa. They still went on to win a Tri-Nations championship later that year. Robbie Deans and his coaches will re-group and no doubt they will analyse what went wrong. The Scotland loss could just end up being remembered as Samoa 2.0.
|Impossible conditions in Newcastle|
Wales i'm sure won't take an awful lot of analysis out of the game either. I expect they will be focusing a lot on their own game anyway. Although they were crowned Six Nations champions this year, they rather stuttered their way through the competetition. Arguably their form shown in the World Cup was more enticing and those are the kind of levels they will be looking to reach once more, if not higher. A team coached by Shaun Edwards in defence is always going lining up waiting to tackle on one leg if necessary, but it will be up to the interim Head Coach Rob Howley to help bring some cohesiveness in attack. How much will Warren Gatland be missed in helping mastermind a tour victory?
Wales looking for their '2003 moment'
|Wales ready to kick on|
They may be four years out rather than one, but they have already proven that they can deal with what their northern rivals can throw at them. It's time to start winning in the Southern Hemisphere, and winning consistently. Australia first up is as good a place to start as any.
There's a lot of youth around the Welsh squad, so one would think that the spine of this side could be the heartbeat of a potentially great side at the next World Cup in England. If Priestland, Halfpenny, North, Cuthbert, Warburton, Faletau, Lydiate et all can achieve some tough victories on the road together, they may just be the team to beat come 2015.
Who do you think will win the Series and by what score?
What did you make of the Scots' ambushing of Australia in the rain?