George Gregan has cautioned against predicting 2023 Rugby World Cup favourites, by alluding to the Springboks’ 2019 rags-to-riches story as proof.
The Boks went from getting written off as contenders in 2018, to beating the more-fancied England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup a year later.
Gregan, who helped the Wallabies win the 1999 World Cup, was speaking in a wide-ranging interview with The42.ie, in the build up to a clash between the world’s top-ranked team Ireland and Australia in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland recorded a historic series win in New Zealand in July, and beat the world champion Boks two weeks ago at the Aviva Stadium, while the Wallabies’ indifferent form in 2022 was encapsulated by a first defeat to Italy last week.
“I remember 2018, what a year. And then a few injuries, a couple of results… It’s sport and confidence is a real funny thing,” former scrumhalf Gregan told The42.ie.
“There’s no way you would have predicted what happened in 2019 a year out, and that’s why it’s difficult to be talking about a World Cup now.
“It’s about the mindset of your players going into it, thinking, ‘OK, it’s a new tournament’ and that’s the really hard thing about a World Cup, when you finally get there it’s a seven-week sprint and what you’ve done before that, to be fair, really doesn’t matter.
“It can help you because you can call upon the big moments that you have experienced, but it’s still a different beast, the Rugby World Cup. It’s good to be going in and playing well, developing your squad and winning.
“But it’s always dangerous to be talking about a World Cup this far out because there are so many variables still to play out.”
Following a surprise loss to Italy, can the Wallabies bounce back against a rampaging Ireland on Saturday? @mark_keohane and Zels give their predictions for the clash at Aviva Stadium. pic.twitter.com/1foJDvxCPO
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 17, 2022
Photo: Franck Robichon/EPA