Miserly defence key for Aussies at World Cup: Muggleton


Conceding just the one try in a game is something Wallabies fans can only dream of.

But how about one try through an entire Rugby World Cup?

Skippered by John Eales and coached by Rod Macqueen, it's a record the Australian team set back in the 1999 tournament as they stormed to the title, beating France in the final at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium.

Former Parramatta and Kangaroos rugby league star John Muggleton was the mastermind behind the golden wall, penetrated only by the USA in a pool game in their six-game tournament.

Muggleton told AAP that the evolution of the game and attacking meant such a statistic would never be seen again in a Rugby World Cup.

"We were ahead of the game," said Muggleton, who is now semi-retired but does some work with the Newcastle Wildfires.

"(Ireland coach) Andy Farrell came over from Wigan and Shaun Edwards (France defence coach) has a rugby league background.

"But it's more that the individual skill of attack as well as team attack is off the charts at the moment - some of the things they do in rugby and league for that matter is amazing to watch."

Part of the 2003 Wallabies campaign under Eddie Jones, who is back at the helm, Muggleton said that defence would still be the key to victory and he was unsure of Australia's capabilities.

The 2003 Wallabies lost to England in the final in Sydney, with dead-eyed Jonny Wilkinson kicking a drop goal in the final seconds of extra time to secure the 20-17 win.

"It's no surprise that the best defensive teams are the two top teams in the world at the moment and that's Ireland and France," Muggleton said.

"It's certainly a very important part of their DNA and I don't think it is any more with the Wallabies.

"It used to be that a big part of being a Wallaby was that you're a good defender and that you held up your bit alongside the shoulder of your mate."

The Wallabies' defence will be given a thorough work-out in Saint-Etienne in their second pool match against Fiji on Sunday (Monday AEST).

Assistant coach Jason Ryles who himself as rugby league roots says their defence has been a priority this week as they prepare for the dangerous Pacific islanders.

"It's a huge challenge for us defensively and that's one thing we've been working really hard on," Ryles told reporters.

"We're focusing on both sides of the footy but there is certainly a heightened awareness around our defence.

"It's probably narrowing our focus down on our individual tackling and getting our line set as best as we can and often as we can to minimise their threats as they're exceptional ball carriers."