Australia on Thursday became the first official bidder for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, with Rugby Australia using two separate ceremonies in Sydney to state their overwhelming desire to stage the tournament Down Under.
The likes of the United States, England and even Russia could yet throw their hats in the ring, too, but there is no doubting Australia has jumped onto the front foot and already made a statement to World Rugby.
The ramifications of a successful bid would be huge for Australian rugby, while the Wallabies would be looking to go one better than their runners-up finish to England in the incredible 2003 tournament - the last time Australia hosted rugby's global showpiece.
So what could a Wallabies line-up look like come 2027? It's inevitable more players will emerge in the coming years, but this team would surely give the tournament a shake, right?
He's doing it tough as part of an underperforming Waratahs team, but there is no doubt Maddocks' best rugby is still in front of him. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is a fan of the NSW outside back, but wants to see "shifts" in his game and has instructed Maddocks exactly where they need to come. There is a chance that Tom Banks could still be holding on age 33, but you get the feeling he might have traded up for a big-money overseas off by then. Queenslander Isaac Lucas could be the smoky at No. 15, but he would first need to show more commitment to Australian rugby than that which he demonstrated in departing amid the pandemic last year.
It has looked as though he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders every time he steps out onto the paddock this year, so perhaps a little time away with a thigh injury will do Petaia some good in the short term. At his best, he is a destructive ball carrier who can beat defenders by running straight over the top of them or using his stutter step to burn them on the outside. At his worst, he is throwing poor passes and losing the ball in contact. But the upside is huge and with seven more years of Test rugby under his belt, Petaia would be peaking at the 2027 World Cup.
One of the breakout stars of 2021, even though he was included in Rennie's Wallabies squad last year. Ikitau is a classy outside centre who can beat opposition defenders on the outside; he has both a fend and an offload, and is assured defensively, too. We could get a look at how a Paisami-Ikitau combination could look as early as July, when the Wallabies face France across three Tests in 11 days.
The biggest find in Australian rugby in years? You'd have to think so, given Paisami started 2020 as a fringe squad member at the Reds and finished the year as arguably the Wallabies' best player. And he has gone up another level in 2021, despite being thwarted by injury, proving himself as the Reds' most important player. Queensland struggle to get over the gainline in midfield without him and that has been no more evident than over the past two weeks in the Super Rugby AU final and then last week's heavy loss to the Highlanders. Thankfully for the Reds, Paisami is back in the lineup for Saturday night's blockbuster with the Crusaders.
The Brumbies winger has gone from strength to strength since his switch from the NRL at the start of 2019, leading to a maiden Wallabies Test, and a try to boot, in Bledisloe IV last year. Wright's biggest weapon is his speed and he is also a proven finisher under pressure. At 30 years of age in 2027, the Brumbies winger is another player who should be peaking at exactly the Wright [sorry, we couldn't resist!] time.
It's clear Noah Lolesio is James O'Connor's heir apparent at No. 10, despite there being a growing list of promising youngsters in Will Harrison, Ben Donaldson and Reesjan Pesitoa, who many believe has the most natural talent of the bunch. Lolesio already looks a far more complete player this season and his goal-kicking has improved dramatically, which is why he was so despondent following last week's miss in Christchurch, a tough kick that would have earned the Brumbies a deserved draw. Being able to sit behind and learn from O'Connor over the next two years will be invaluable, setting Lolesio up for a run to 2027 in what should be his best years as a playmaker.
This selection might surprise a few given the omission of Tate McDermott, but there are doubts about the Queenslander's pass and how it holds up under pressure. Lonergan, meanwhile, is serving an apprenticeship behind Nic White at the Brumbies and also has the added string to his bow with his goal-kicking, for which he already has an after-the-siren match-winner for the digital scrapbook. Given McDermott is already in and around the Wallabies environment he likely holds the upper hand, but should Dan McKellar graduate to the Test job that could easily switch to Lonergan.
For so many years the Wallabies were without a genuine No. 8, but at last they look to have a player in the mould of the great Toutai Kefu in Wilson. The Queenslander graduated from under-20s star to bona-fide Test back-rower last year, his ball-carrying and bruising defence earning rave reviews from Crusaders coach Scott Robertson among others. Wilson will be among the first picked for the Wallabies this year and will very much be one of the team's leaders by the time 2027 rolls around.
Any thought that McReight could dislodge Michael Hooper from the Wallabies No. 7 jersey this season was virtually put to bed on Thursday when Dave Rennie confirmed the returning openside would again captain Australia in 2021. But there is no question McReight is putting pressure on Hooper and that might be the catalyst for the Test skipper to take his game to another level. Fast forward to 2027 and Hooper will have long departed the Test scene and barring some crippling injury, McReight will be wearing the No. 7 jersey. Having captained the national under 20s team to within one point of a world title, he remains near the top of the list to assume the captaincy from Hooper, too.
Among the most exciting players in Australian rugby, Valetini is developing into a wonderful back-rower who looks poised to make an impact on the Test scene this year. Capable of filling both the No. 6 and No. 8 shirts, Valetini's strengths come on the carry while he also looms large in the wider channels working as a link man, in the exact fashion he scored for the Brumbies in Christchurch last week. At 29 years of age in 2027, Valetini could have well over 50 caps to his name and be another of the leaders the Wallabies will look to.
It may be a case of out of sight, out of mind for Rodda right now, but that will all change when he returns to Australia in the coming weeks, and potentially earns a crack at France having spent the last 12 months or so playing alongside the French in the Top 14. Rodda will join the Force next year having departed the Reds in acrimonious circumstances amid the COVID uncertainty, an exit that continues to grind Brad Thorn's gears. Rodda could be a veteran of two World Cups by the time 2027 rolls around and at 31 years of age should still be playing great rugby.
A difficult selection given the breadth of rising young locks around Australia, I expect Frost to really come into his own over the next few years. Having spent time at the Crusaders Academy out of school, Frost has since returned to the Brumbies to bolster a talented bunch of locks that also includes Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville. Frost is another graduate of Australia's under 20s team who were runners-up at the Junior World Championship in 2019, his incredible try against Ireland one of the moments of the tournament. He can also play at No. 6.
Can the Tongan Thor get all the way to 2027? Australia will be hoping so, as his by-then 10 years of international rugby experience will be invaluable. The big question here will be whether Tupou has moved overseas, even then it's likely he will have brought up the 60 caps threshold for overseas Wallabies eligibility - that is providing the Giteau Law is still in play. All things going to plan, Tupou at 31 would be among Australia's senior playing group and with a further six years of Test rugby under his belt there would be little scrummaging nous he won't have gained, given he is already making minced meat of opposition looseheads.
The Brumbies hooker, and brother of scrum-half Ryan, got a first taste of life with the Wallabies last month when he was one of four uncapped hookers brought into Dave Rennie's camp in Sydney. He sits behind Folau Fainga'a most weeks in Canberra, but his introduction to the national fold shows the regard he is held in further up the chain. A busy on-ball type of hooker, Lonergan clearly has some improvement to find at the set-piece but he is otherwise shaping as an excellent front-row talent.
Almost lost to the Waratahs earlier this year, Bell has now committed his future to NSW Rugby and Australia as a result. The loosehead prop made his Test debut last year, his time with the Wallabies hugely valuable as the improvement in his set-piece work is already evident. Bell is an athletic front-rower who loves to run with the ball and at just 20 years of age has a huge ceiling to hit over the next seven years.