One year out from the World Cup, the Wallabies are about to find out some answers.
The Wallabies, having stumbled their way through 2022, can reintroduce themselves as a rugby force if they can somehow beat France in Paris on Sunday morning (7am AEDT).
Les Bleus have not been beaten since their second string side were pipped by Rennie’s Wallabies in Brisbane and are shooting for a record 11th straight Test win at the Stade de France.
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Rennie claimed on Thursday that Antoine Dupont’s side were the best in the world even if they are behind Ireland on the World Rugby rankings.
It is something captain James Slipper agreed with when he addressed the media at his Captain’s Run in Paris on Friday.
“They haven’t been beaten in a while, they’re the form team in the world at the moment,” Slipper told reporters.
“It’s a team that’s full of confidence.
“Playing here at home they’re going to be hard to beat,” the loose-head prop added.
But the French side the Wallabies face will be vastly different to the one they came up against in Australia last year.
Halves Dupont and Romain Ntamack were just two of more than a dozen players across the 23 that did not tour Down Under last year.
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions are captained by World Rugby player of the year Dupont and the crafty halfback, whose running game is a trademark, has been at the forefront of the nation’s revival alongside coach Fabien Galthie.
“As a half-back he’s probably the best player in the world,” 33-year-old Slipper said.
“He’s a class player, he’s really grown in that leadership role and we’ve seen what the French team have done over the past 15 months, it’s been quite incredible.”
France cemented themselves as World Cup favourites earlier this year by claiming the Six Nations.
“Having won, it’s given us confidence and the desire to continue doing what we’ve done and to continue to win,” Dupont said.
“We have to put the ingredients in place and we know when you get to the top, the hardest thing is to stay there.
“I think the desire, the enthusiasm and the drive the whole squad have has even been lifted compared to the Six Nations, but that needs to be shown on the field,” the 25-year-old added.
Rennie has persisted with his rotation, recalling Nic White at halfback while handing a debut starting jersey to Jock Campbell at fullback.
On the Wallabies bench will be 145kg La Rochelle lock Will Skelton, who is into his third campaign on the Atlantic coast.
“We’re starting to know him,” Toulouse’s Dupont said.
“We’ve played against him a lot for La Rochelle but I hope it will be more the forwards who will face him tomorrow.
“He likes catching the scrum-halves around the rucks. We know the physical power he has on the field and how he can bother the defence and attack. That’s the quality of the player,” he added.
In less than 10 months’ time Dupont’s France will be one of the favourites for the Rugby World Cup on home soil, four years after former scrum-half Galthie took over as head coach.
“I think we have to continue what we’ve been doing since the start of Fabien and his staff’s era,” Dupont said.
“I don’t think we need to revolutionise anything over the next year, we feel the event fast approaching, be it with us or around us. There’s a lot of expectation around the event including us.
“We have to be patient, evolve, continue to grow and it will come when it comes.”
Australia (15-1): Jock Campbell; Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Tom Wright; Bernard Foley, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway; Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost; Taniela Tupou, David Porecki, James Slipper (c)
Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Matt Gibson, Tom Robertson, Will Skelton, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Hunter Paisami, Reece Hodge
France (15-1): Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (c); Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Anthony Jelonch; Thibaud Flament, Cameron Woki; Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille Replacement: Peato Mauvaka, Dany Priso, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Killian Geraci, Sekou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Matthieu Jalibert
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