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The current and continuing headline story out of Australia is not about preparation for this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan this September. The narrative follows the dismissal of Aussie rugby star Israel Folau, who has been fired by the country's union for writing homophobic remarks on social media, announcing to gays, "Hell awaits you." Folau is demanding a code of conduct meeting and reinstatement on his $4 million contract.
Australia has been beset by a decline in rugby union interest (but not Rugby League). Low Test match attendance; for example, against the Springboks, a mere 27,000 people in Brisbane in a half filled stadium.
Also an absence of major wins on the world's stage. In a five-year period between 1999 and 2004, the Wallabies attained a 49-20-1 record (71% win rate) including a World Cup title (1999) and a runner up spot in 2003, losing to England in overtime in Sydney. In almost the same five-year period since the end of the 2015 RWC in England (where they lost to New Zealand in the final), the Aussies are 33-32-3 (51% win outcome). Further, in this same period, the Wallabies lost all six matches to England, and notably, a disastrous and unprecedented, three-loss at home tour result.
In addition, Aussie Andrew Forrest, a billionaire, has planned as new league called Rapid Rugby, with possibly, six to ten teams in the Pacific region, and sanctioned by World Rugby. Games would be 70-minutes and no kicking to touch. It has a start date of 2020. What will this new idea do to rugby union in Australia?
The Australian media question the ability of Coach Michael Cheika and his staff as not possessing the same high coaching and leadership standard as other Tier 1 nations.
Finally, in a poll last year inquiring about popularity, rugby union landed in the mid twenty ranking, behind ballroom dancing.
The Wallabies must demonstrate some resilience in Japan this autumn or difficult times will continue.