<
>

Australia are suffering an identity crisis and need to prove themselves

The Wallabies clearly have an identity crisis. Michael Cheika admitted as much when he fronted the media shortly after his team's World Cup opening win against Fiji. Australia remains the unknown quantity- riddled with inconsistencies.

Cheika, who loves a good tussle with anyone including the media, offered up an intriguing assessment that seemed to befuddle some of the scribes in the pressroom on Wednesday night.

"We've come into this tournament where people aren't too sure of us," Cheika uttered.

This prompted the obvious query from one seasoned rugby writer: "Well, what aren't they sure of?"

"If we're any good or not."

And would the public's bewilderment over the actual value of the Wallabies have changed after a solid rather than spectacular first offering in Cardiff?

No. Hardly anyone has the foggiest idea over whether they are actually world-beaters, a seriously flawed product, or something in between.

Are they good? We really need to see more.

Are they bad? We really need to see more.

We really just need to see the Wallabies A team play together more often.

As with so many recent Wallabies appearances, there were some pleasing aspects in their Fiji triumph and numerous encouraging moments in particular their enthusiasm at the tackle area for 79 minutes, but too many questions remain- especially the quality of their set-piece work.

Lineouts were again a bit of a mess, and the Wallabies were not as dominant up front in the scrum as they would have liked- especially as the Fijian pack was perceived as something the Australians could take advantage of.

Instead the Fijians eight worried them, holding firm when it was required, even fragmenting them during one exasperating scrum on the halfway line.

Maybe that's why late in the game, sections of the Cardiff crowd began to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" as if to indicate that England have nothing to be worried about by the Wallabies in their pursuit to finish ahead of them in the pool of death.

As well so many in the crowd were surprised that the Wallabies did not go for the fourth try late in the game to pursue a crucial bonus point.

But that happens with a team that hasn't played often enough with each other. As Cheika has chopped and changed his lineup so much in recent Tests, to the extent that everyone in the Wallabies squad is somewhat jittery, they are far from an assured lineup. Players still getting used to each other are usually just happy to win, and haven't the confidence to apply pressure on the opposition's throat.

That was why with about 12 minutes to go, Australia went for the three points via a penalty goal, as it put them more than two converted tries ahead of Fiji. Fiji were at that time looking threatening, building momentum which saw their No. 10 Ben Volavola take advantage of a sizeable gap between Australian locks Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas to score, and the Wallabies decided to play safe. In their present state of mind, that wasn't such a dumb idea.

After all a few days earlier, they did see what happened when the Days Army outfit, otherwise known as the Springboks became oh so lazy against Japan. Taking a minnow for granted is a very dangerous option.

As for dangers, David Pocock and Michael Hooper remains the Wallabies most potent combination.

Pocock deserved his man of the match status, showing that what works for the ACT Brumbies can also work for the Wallabies- guiding over two driving maul tries. His effectiveness at the breakdown in tandem with Hooper was as crucial, as was the pair's ability to effect numerous telling tackles in midfield when the Fijians began to enjoy some consistent possession during the second half.

This match again confirmed it is madness not to play Pocock and Hooper side by side as much as possible. They are the team's two most important assets.

Another Wallabies who showed poise was centre Matt Giteau, who succeeded in straightening the team's attack when required and kicked judiciously. Giteau certainly looks far more assured than when he left Australian Rugby a few years ago a disconsolate figure.

Nonetheless it will still be some time before anyone discovers the true identity of this Australian team, as Cheika explained that he was going to completely revamp the lineup for their next match against Uruguay in Birmingham on Sunday. The B team will now get their chance.

Identity crisis or not, methinks Cheika doesn't mind a bit of confusion. Fine, as long as it doesn't do their own heads in.