George Gregan insists Wallabies can still beat anybody on their day

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George Gregan insists Wallabies can still beat anybody on their day

Both Gregan and O’Driscoll have been at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this past week.

By Alex Leach (senior Reporter)

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Published: Wed 21 Jan 2015, 2:55 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:47 PM

George Gregan during a recent a coaching clinic at a school in Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo

George Gregan during a recent a coaching clinic at a school in Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo

Dubai: Former Australia scrum-half George Gregan held the all-time record for the highest number of international caps until last March, when ex Republic of Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll overtook him.

Both Gregan and O’Driscoll have been at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this past week.

As HSBC ambassadors for rugby — one of the three main sports the bank supports alongside golf and tennis — Gregan & O’Driscoll have been offering their expert tips to fans at the HSBC World of Sport in the Championship Village during complimentary clinics set up there.

Here, Gregan talks to Khaleej Times about the wounded Wallabies’ chances at this autumn’s Rugby World Cup (RWC), the all-conquering All Blacks, England’s RWC hopes on home soil and Japan’s quarter-final aspirations.

Q: What did you make of Australia’s Autumn Test series in the Northern Hemisphere and four close defeats overall?

It was disappointing in terms of results, but Michael Cheika definitely put his stamp on the team in terms of how they want to play. They want to play a physical and attacking style of rugby that will win games.

Q: What went wrong with Ewen McKenzie’s tenure in your opinion and what does his successor Michael Cheika have to do to get the Wallabies back on track/right those perceived wrongs?

I think Ewen McKenzie was let down by things off the field in terms of team behaviours as well as losing Test matches. He is a very good coach, but it was a sad day to see him resign after the All Blacks Test in Brisbane. Michael Cheika has a group of very good players who just need to get some consistency in their performances. The scrum and lineout will always need work at international level, but the attacking philosophy he instils within the team will also be very important.

Q: Should Australia be considered as genuine trophy contenders for next autumn’s Rugby World Cup as things stand? If so, why? If not, why?

The Wallabies can definitely beat anyone in the world on their day. They just lack a little bit of consistency at the moment, but that can change. They will need to improve this aspect of their game before the RWC.

Q: Can anyone stop reigning RWC champions New Zealand on current form? They appear heads and shoulders above everyone else and it seemingly takes a monumental performance from an opposing nation to come close to them?

The All Blacks are definitely the best team in the World at the moment with a winning percentage of over 90 per cent since 2011. However, a RWC is a totally different animal and they would be the first to admit it. All it takes is one poor performance in the play-off stage of the tournament and you’re finished. This is what makes it a very even tournament from the quarter-finals onwards.

Q: What do you make of hosts England’s chances at ‘Fortress Twickenham’? Traditionally, the home side always go close or end up winning the RWC, yet Autumn defeats to New Zealand and South Africa would imply they still have a way to go over the next nine months.

England will be a very difficult team to play against during the RWC. As hosts, they will be buoyed by the support they will receive throughout the tournament. They lost Test matches to two of their three Southern Hemisphere rivals during the Autumn Series. However, they will take the lessons from those losses to make them a stronger team.

Q: Is playing on home soil a help or a hindrance for England in your experience/opinion? You obviously experienced it yourself 12 years ago now.

I think it’s definitely a help as the English team will receive an overwhelming amount of public support. It will be a bit like the London Olympics in 2012 in terms of the overall event. History shows that this can really inspire the home team.

However, if they perform poorly in Pool A (‘The Pool of Death’) and don’t make the quarter-finals, then it’s a totally different scenario which you don’t want to experience.

Q: What can we expect of Asian powerhouses Japan? As the flag bearer for continental rugby here, can the Cherry Blossoms feature and make an impression?

I think the Japanese team will create their own piece of RWC history in this tournament by winning a number of games. Eddie Jones has stated that he wants his team to play in the quarter-finals. He sets the bar very high for any team he coaches!

alex@khaleejtimes.com



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