Former Australia coach Rod Macqueen believes the Wallabies will need to overcome New Zealand’s dominance at the breakdown if they are to stand any chance of winning the World Cup next year.
The All Blacks have controlled possession throughout the current Tri Nations series, in which they completed a 3-0 whitewash of the Australians on their way to retaining the title.
And Macqueen believes a sharp turnaround in form is needed if Australia wants a repeat of their 1999 success on the world stage.
"We can talk about the style of play and the skill sets and succession planning, but the basic principle of the game is to win the ball, and you have to get that shored up first and then you can worry about everything else," Macqueen said at a charity event in Sydney.
"There’s a contest for possession there at the moment and we’re seeing New Zealand dominating that area and it’s no coincidence that they are the best team in the world."
Macqueen was impressed with the improvement displayed by the Wallabies in Auckland last weekend when they slipped to a 34-27 loss against Graham Henry’s men, but insists a team’s form cannot solely be judged on wins and losses.
"I think we can all be very happy with the way they played last week, and that’s all you can judge it on at this stage," he said.
"It’s easy to judge teams on winning and losing, but the good teams are the ones that judge themselves on the standards they’re setting and I’m sure that that’s what’s going on at the moment."
Macqueen believes that the process of resting key players from Super 14 competition ahead of the World Cup next year is one that has to be looked at carefully.
New Zealand has already announced it will rest 22 players for a large portion of the tournament and Australian officials are currently debating the issue.
"The World Cup is important but we also have to keep in mind the other parts of rugby," he continued.
"It’s a balancing act and the good thing from my point of view is that all sides are talking.
"I don’t think (the All Blacks plan to rest players) is desperate.
"Obviously what New Zealand are looking at is to be able to field a side no matter how many injuries they’ve got."