Sean Fitzpatrick: Beware the low-key Aussies
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - PART TWO: All Black legend Sean Fitzpatrick, in discussion with Jan de Koning, gives his thoughts on the upcoming Rugby Championship.
New Zealand are outright favourites to win the four-team Rugby Championships, with most bookmakers offering odds of one to 10 on the Kiwis and the more 'generous' odds being 2/10.
South Africa (none to one to 11 to one), Australia (13 to one) and Argentina (listed anywhere between 90 to one to 150 to one) are seemingly just making up the numbers.
However, Fitzpatrick suggested the Aussie - having flown under the radar - could cause a few upsets.
While South Africa (with three teams) and New Zealand (four teams) went deep into the Super Rugby play-offs, right up to the Final, the Aussies were able to start preparing for the Rugby Championship as soon as the Super Rugby play-offs started.
And with their only representative, the Brumbies, knocked out in the quarterfinals, they have had their full squad together for weeks already.
"New Zealand is by far the favourites, based on current form," Fitzpatrick told rugby365.
"Australia has been under the radar a bit,: he said, adding: "Everyone has written the Australians off.
"[Wallaby coach] Michael Cheika has other ideas about that.
"He has a good crop of players. They don't have the greatest depth, but they have a good 20 to 30 players that can compete at that level.
"It is how they gel as a team.
"They have a pretty tough start in playing New Zealand in the first two weeks - that will be difficult for them to start."
Fitzpatrick suggested the Springboks could be the All Blacks' closest rivals if all goes according to script.
"South Africa, having Argentina in their first two games, is good [for the Boks],: the All Blacks legend told rugby365.
"They had a good series against the French [in June], so hopefully it will be competitive."
Fitzpatrick said it was "refreshing" to see what the Lions brought to the party in terms of the Super Rugby Final - where they lost 17-25 to the All Black-laden Crusaders.
"They will be very competitive," he said, adding: "Whether they can transfer that into the international are is another question."
Fitzpatrick said New Zealand "need" the rest of the world to be strong.
"The most refreshing thing I saw out of the British and Irish Lions [tour to New Zealand] was that they were competitive.
"They pushed New Zealand and that is what we need.
"We need teams that push the New Zealand teams and we want competitive rugby.
"Hopefully we will see that."
By Jan de Koning
* Don't miss part three when Fitzpatrick gives his thoughts on why New Zealand is so far ahead of the rest of the world.
* To read Part One of the interview, CLICK HERE!