For their opening match in World Cup 2011, the Wallabies got to kick things off against Nick Mallet's Italian Squad. Not as much marquee value as England-Argentina, or South Africa-Wales, but Italy's formidable front row was going to be a stern test for Robbie Deans' Wallaby front row in Auckland.
The first half saw the Italians play with a great deal of heart and physicality. They were tackling hard and Quade Cooper and Wil Genia were not getting the time to work their magic. The halftime score was a very suprising 6-6. The neutral Kiwis in the crowd had to be wondering if the Italians could add a Wallaby pelt to the French scalp that they took in Rome back in the Six Nations. The Wallabies looked like a Fiat stuck in mud in the first half.
In the second half, the Wallabies looked like they were driving a Lamborhini opening it up on an open road in West Australia. Italy was just not going to be able to match the wicked pace the Australians posessed in the second half.
As tough as the Italians could be in the scrum, the Wallabies reigned supreme in the line outs. Secondly, when Deans brough in young James O'Connor, that injected some more speed to what the Wallaby back line already posessed. Thirdly, Quade Cooper got his mojo working at fly half.
Quade Cooper's impeccable timing on 3 different passes set up 3 Wallaby tries. Ben Alexander did us props proud by touching down after some nice work by the Wallaby forwards. In the end, the 32-6 bonus point win was a nice warm up for the Aussies as their next match will be against the Irish, who will be looking to improve upon their game against the USA Eagles. I think the Wallabies have to be the second favorites in this tournament after the hosts. Their forwards are quick, their 3rd row has the physicality to match with the All Blacks at the breakdown to cause headaches for almost any time in the tournament-Pocock and Elsom were a major pain for Sergio Parisse and his mates in the second half.
The good news for Austrlia is that their two toughest games will be done first, so they can rest people as needed against the Russians and Americans to finish up group play.