Why win over England at Twickenham isn’t Rugby Australia’s top priority

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An upset win for the Wallabies at Twickenham this weekend would be a sweet moment for Australian rugby fans but it’s not the biggest prize to be won in England at present.

Footage of chairman Hamish McLennan, chief executive Andy Marinos and Rugby World Cup bid heavyweights Phil Kearns and Rod Eddington wooing members of the British press in London this week spoke to the crucial campaign being waged off the paddock – winning the right to host the 2027 RWC.

The charm offensive with the press is likely to be successful: no matter what skirmishes take place on the sporting field there is historical goodwill towards Australia, and respect for its ability to run a good event.

So, the real victory for Rugby Australia won’t be kind words from Fleet Street; it will be getting an assurance for the RFU that they won’t run for the 2031 edition, a complication they could do without. Such a move would heighten the competition between Rugby Australia and the USA for 2027, with the American bid applying to both 2027 and 2031. Australia would remain the logical choice, but McLennan and co dearly want a clear run at the event to remove the possibility of politics and deal-making coming into the picture. Ask the South Africans or Irish about being burnt last time around.

I’m firmly of the view the RWC bid dwarfs the importance of what we will see on the field at Twickenham.

That’s not looking for excuses for Dave Rennie, who wouldn’t accept them anyway. But it is important to note the Eddie Jones v Rennie’s Wallabies story is a four-chapter book, and the ending won’t be known until England complete their tour of Australia next July. Only after that will the true pecking order be known.

Wallaby Allan Alaalatoa will be missing against England this week as Rugby Australia look to shore up the 2027 World Cup hosting rights.

Wallaby Allan Alaalatoa will be missing against England this week as Rugby Australia look to shore up the 2027 World Cup hosting rights.Credit:AP

It was a point well made to the Herald and The Age by All Blacks Ian Foster coach this week. Foster is on record as being impressed by the Six Nations, but he does wonder if the Rugby Championship teams’ performances this November will ultimately be affected by the amount of time they have spent in bubbles this year – and he included the Wallabies’ time spent in their ‘domestic’ bubble in Australia in that assessment.

Also, the Wallabies team selected to face England is clearly not their strongest. The absence of Allan Alaalatoa – who, worryingly for World Rugby, passed an HIA test against Scotland and played 62 minutes but subsequently suffered concussion symptoms – and Taniela Tupou has clearly denied them two of their best performers. Add in the missing Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi and it’s hard not to think this is a shadow of the team that beat the Springboks twice.

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