Where to now for the Wallabies?

The Wallabies shock defeat at the hands of Ireland has left them needing to make World Cup history in order to ‘bring home bill’.

No team has ever lost a pool match at the world cup and then proceeded to win the tournament.  In fact, very few have even managed to win a single knockout match.

Of the 23[1] previous world cup quarter finals in which an undefeated team has faced a team which had already suffered a loss, on only 3 occasions has the pool stage runner up emerged triumphant. 

The first of these occurred  in 1991, in which England lost to New Zealand in the opening game of the tournament  before going on to defeat France in an ill tempered (aren’t they all?) QF at Park de Princes. 

The other two quarter final upsets of this nature occurred on the same day in 2007, as England overpowered the Wallabies on a hot afternoon in Marseille, and France shocked the grey-clad tournament favourites New Zealand later the same evening in Cardiff.  England had been whitewashed 36-0 by eventual champions South Africa during the pool stage. 

But it is perhaps the French of 2007 to whom the wallabies current predicament could most be likened.  The English pool stage losses of 1991 and 2007 had been largely expected, coming as they did at the hands of two of the southern hemisphere heavyweights.  The French of 2007 however, like the wallabies of 2011, were heavily favoured to win their group and thereby earn an easier quarter final assignment.  Their shock loss to Argentina in the opening match of the tournament ranks alongside Ireland’s victory last Saturday as the greatest World Cup pool match upset ever[2], and relegated them to facing the kiwis in Cardiff. 

So the optimistic amongst the Wallabies supporters can point towards the 2007 French campaign as evidence that all is not lost, and a revival of the campaign is possible.  That is where the favourable historic precedent ends however. 

While two teams have gone on to reach the final after suffering a pool stage loss[3], neither were able to win the tournament.  Judging by World Cup history, Australia’s hopes of lifting the Web Ellis trophy on October 23rd now appear to be very slim indeed.   


[1] One quarter final, in 1987 between New Zealand and Scotland, featured 2 undefeated sides, as Scotland finished 2nd in their pool on for and against after drawing with France during the pool stages. 

[2] New Zealand has never lost a pool match.  South Africa’s only pool defeat came to eventual champions England in 2003.  Australia’s only previous pool match defeat was in the opening game of the 1995 world cup to the hosts South Africa.  England’s two other pool defeats were to Australia in 1987 and New Zealand in 1999, while France have only lost the pool match mentioned above.  None of these defeats suffered by tournament contenders was an upset on the scale of the Irish and Argentinean triumphs. 

[3] England 1991, England 2007

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Posted on September 21, 2011, in union. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Excellent insight Thommo. Referring to that famous QF day in ’07 brought back a few memories. I recall being pretty dejected after we lost, but toughed it out and went out to a bbq in West London full of Aussies & Kiwis. By the time I got there, the Kiwis were in deep shit and of course things stayed that way. After the game, the Aussies were surprisingly buoyed by the fact it wasn’t just us blowing heavy favourtism. But for the boys in Black, the party turned into something resembling a wake. The silver fern flag was placed on a barrel full of flames, and many a shattered Kiwi stood around and watched their world cup hopes go up in smoke. It was then I learnt a valuable lesson, don’t put all your sporting eggs in one basket, cause 4 years is a long wait.

  2. My main recollections of that day are

    1. Ripping off my wallabies polo with 10 to go after realising a was wearing the same outfit during the 2003 world cup final

    2. Beef’s impromptu clean up of the apartment after the defeat. The dirt just wouldn’t come off!

    3. Heading to the local in Shoreditch to drown sorrows and really hoping the All Blacks would win and then take revenge on England for us in the Semi Finals (clutching any shred of comfort there)

    4. All the english fans becoming twice as happy as they already were when they realised they’d be playing France, rather than NZ.

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