ENGLISH rugby has been in mourning since a loss to Australia condemned their side to an early exit from the very World Cup it was hosting. Now the Wallabies have heaped further humiliation on the team and country with a cutting sledge.
England’s training base during the Rugby World Cup was at Pennyhill Park in Surrey, but now that they no longer need it, Australia was offered the chance to take their place on the outskirts of Bagshot.
But they rejected the offer, and they had a good reason for doing so.
“No, there’s nothing to do out there,” Wallabies kicking coach Chris Malone was quoted as saying in UK publication The Telegraphwhen asked if they were planning to relocate.
“We’re transferring to Teddington. A few of our guys will go to play a bit of golf and a few will go to the cinema.”
The Aussies’ new training base will be in London on the banks of the Thames.
England’s early demise has been partially blamed on the players’ lack of freedom. Back-rower Billy Vunipola said they would have been better off going to the pub to build more “bonds and bridges” within the squad. Coach Stuart Lancaster will be under pressure to keep his job following England’s poor performance, and no doubt one of the factors looked at will be whether he was too strict with his team.
Wallabies scrum-half Nick Phipps said his side didn’t have any problems finding ways to amuse themselves in their free time.
“A lot of people blur the lines between having fun and playing well. We could have fun anywhere, though. We are good at entertaining ourselves and we use our downtime well,” said Phipps.
Australia won all four of its encounters in the pool stage, including a heroic effort against Wales on Sunday morning (AEST). Their form to date has many experts tipping them to win the World Cup, a view that will heap more pressure on a nation that hasn’t won the sport’s showpiece event since 1999.
The Telegraph canvassed the opinion of rugby writers and ex-players to determine who they think will lift the Webb Ellis Cup, and many of the experts couldn’t go past Australia when tipping a winner.
England international Chris Ashton, who has worn the red rose 39 times in his career, is one of many who picked the Aussies to come out on top.
“Even if England had beaten Australia, I still think Cheika’s side could get to the final and win it,” said Ashton.
Wallabies legend David Campese has also given his backing to the men in gold, saying: “Having come through Pool A in such fashion I think we have an excellent chance of going all the way.”
Ex-All Black number eight Zinzan Brooke ignored allegiance to his native country and fancies the Wallabies above everyone else.
“I would love New Zealand to win it, but at this moment I would say Australia are favourites,” said Brooke.
Rugby columnist Greg Mairs thinks Australia’s stark improvement at the set-piece has them primed for a tilt at the title, while colleague Steve James believes Australia has shown enough flair in attack and enough resilience in defence to warrant the favourites tag.
Australia will play Scotland in the quarter-finals on Monday October 19 at 2AM (AEST). They welcome back Michael Hooper from suspension, while Israel Folau and David Pocock are fighting to overcome ankle and calf injuries respectively.