The Wallabies play Wales in Cardiff this weekend and if the hosts appear obsessed with their long losing streak against Australia there is a good reason.
The Welsh are the statistical outliers in the changing relationship between the Wallabies and the Home Nations – and quite dramatically so.
Since 2008, the Wallabies have a losing record against England, Ireland and Scotland. In fact, the past decade has been a story of accelerating decline against England and Ireland and recurring issues with Scotland.
Outlier: Wales captain Sam Warburton shakes hands with Scott Sio after losing to the Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup.Credit:AP
The base stats are thus: in the 2008-to-present period, the Wallabies have won 35.7 per cent of games against England, 45 per cent of games against Ireland and 42.9 per cent of games against Scotland. The success rate against Wales is 92.9 per cent.
However, those numbers are only the start of the story, and it is particularly problematic for Michael Cheika.
Although the Wallabies now struggle against England, the Robbie Deans era between 2008 and early July in 2013 was profitable for them. They won four out of their six games against England under Deans for a win rate of 66 per cent.
After Deans was sacked, the Wallabies lost to England in their only game under Ewen McKenzie, while Cheika has a 14.3 per cent success rate from seven Tests.
It’s a not dissimilar story against Ireland. Deans has a 62.5 per cent success rate against the Irish (from four Tests), while McKenzie won his only Test against them. However, Cheika has struggled, winning just one Test from five against Joe Schmidt’s side.
Scotland present a slightly different picture. Deans never tasted success against the Scots in two attempts, both of which were memorable for the lack of quality of the Wallabies’ performance. Again, McKenzie won his only Test against the Scots, but the Cheika era has seen that contest even up again, with the Wallabies winning only 50 per cent of the past four Tests.
There is so much to pick through from these numbers but the England and Ireland results provide the biggest sample size (14 Tests v England since 2008, 10 against Ireland).
Here, there is an area for real concern for Australian rugby. Post mid-2013, results against these two countries have worsened considerably, albeit the Wallabies proved in 2015 they are capable of getting up for the big World Cup games.
The factors at play here are numerous and include the improvements the Home Nations have made in the period, particularly in things such as their conditioning.
There is also the obvious conclusion that the past decade has been a period of general decline in Australian rugby (something Deans was managing better than given credit for at the time) but the fall-off in results has been so rapid under Cheika that it can’t fail to raise questions.
This is why the Wales game is so critically important. Some confusing signals have been sent by the Wallabies’ selections for the Test (why has Tolu Latu been rewarded with a start?) but the goal couldn’t be clearer: they have to win.
It is not about preserving the streak against Wales. It’s not about the World Cup, even though the Wallabies and Wales are in the same group). It’s about drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘We are not going to become the Wallabies side that everyone likes playing’.
Wallabies v England, 2008-2018: Win 35.7 per cent.
Deans v England: 66 per cent
McKenzie v England: 0 per cent
Cheika v England: 14.3 per cent
Wallabies v Wales, 2008-2018: Win 92.9 per cent
Deans v Wales: 88.9 per cent
McKenzie v Wales 100 per cent
Cheika v Wales: 100 per cent
Wallabies v Ireland, 2008-2018: Win 45 per cent
Deans v Ireland: 62.5 per cent
McKenzie v Ireland: 100 per cent
Cheika v Ireland: 20 per cent
Wallabies v Scotland, 2008-2018: Win 42.9 per cent
Deans v Scotland: 0 per cent
McKenzie v Scotland: 100 per cent
Cheika v Scotland: 50 per cent
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