After all the fun of the home winter series for the southern hemisphere sides, attention now turns to the 2022 Rugby Championship, with the best four teams from the south coming together once again.
For two of the nations, this is a huge chance to bounce back, while the other two will be looking to continue their run of form after winning their own home series.
Both South Africa and Argentina saw off Wales and Scotland respectively, although neither had everything all their own way.
For Australia and New Zealand, they saw England and Ireland respectively come away from their three-match series with a 2-1 win, with both left incredibly disappointed.
For the All Blacks in particular this was a disappointing series, with Ireland a side they would likely have felt they should have beaten 3-0.
While Australia are still building as a team, they too will have been disappointed by a loss to England.
Two defeats on the bounce came after a stunning 30-28 win in the first Test. This was quickly followed by a 25-17 loss to tie things up before England ran out 21-17 winners in the deciding Test.
This loss was one that many would have seen coming before the series, but it was disappointing nonetheless. Perhaps it is this disappointment that points to growth from the point of view of the Wallabies.
Old enemies England are always a side they want to beat, but the English have been far better than them in recent years.
The fact they beat the tourists and then lost by eight points or less in both of their final two matches shows growth on the pitch. In the forwards, Australia gave England a real run for their money physically, while their scrum and work at the breakdown continually caused the tourists’ problems.
In the backs, Australia did have their moments, but they were ultimately outdone by their opponents. Injuries to key players in important positions clearly did not help the men in gold, but the home side were still able to put out a world class backline regardless.
If the physicality of the forwards and more cohesive play from the backs can marry up, then Australia will have a strong all-round outfit that can challenge any side.
They displayed this in patches against England, but they will have to take their game up another level to truly compete with New Zealand and South Africa.
Despite this, their continued growth, alongside the struggles of New Zealand and South Africa for real form, could see the Aussies giving themselves a real chance of excelling at The Rugby Championship this year. Currently priced at odds of $5.50 with Australian betting sites, the Wallabies are third favorites behind New Zealand ($2.00) and South Africa ($2.50), with Argentina the big underdogs at $34.
New Zealand and South Africa being such big favorites is fairly surprising considering they were poor by their own standards throughout their recent series. But the question remains; can Australia win the Rugby Championship?
This is something that will likely be answered in the first few weeks of the competition.
Australia play Argentina in the first two rounds, and if they are to lose either or both of these games, then it is incredibly unlikely that they will get close to the two favourites.
However, if they can take close to maximum points from their games against the competition’s underdogs, then they set up two games against South Africa and then New Zealand nicely.
Against both the All Blacks and Springboks, Australia will be tested physically, while they need to ensure that they are cohesive at the back when they have the ball in hand.
Wales proved that wasting possession can be terminal in a game against South Africa. While Ireland were superb against the All Blacks, they were able to profit from New Zealand’s uncharacteristic errors with the ball in hand and their ill-discipline.
Ultimately, any Australian triumph will need to incorporate some huge performances from the men in gold with no short measure of luck.
Australia have been on the back foot against their opponents for some time, but if they can get on a roll at the start of the competition, then who knows what might happen.
Gamble responsibly. Contact the Gambling Helpline for free and confidential support, information and counseling on 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelponline.org.au.