Scotland's Ali Price dives in to score in the demolition of the Wallabies at the weekend.
Scotland's Ali Price dives in to score in the demolition of the Wallabies at the weekend. Andrew Milligan

Genia warns northern rugby rivals have closed the gap

RUGBY UNION: Will Genia has lamented the "pear-shaped” end to the Wallabies' season by warning that the gap between the northern hemisphere rugby powers and the traditional heavyweights of the south is now a myth.

The champion halfback forecast the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan would be the closest of the three editions fought during his career because only the All Blacks now really have a consistent margin over their rivals around the globe.

Australia being humbled by England (30-6) and Scotland (53-24) on successive weekends, Ireland's 38-3 thrashing of South Africa and Scotland's 22-17 near-miss against the All Blacks earlier this month highlighted what Genia already knew.

"I wouldn't even say there's a gap. I think just sometimes they play well, we don't play well, we play well, they don't play well, whichever it might be,” Genia said of the north-south divide.

"Our game against Scotland was a very good gauge for that. I mean, they played a very, very good brand of rugbyand exciting where they were attacking from all parts of the field, playing at pace with quick taps, playing at tempo in terms of lineout and scrums.”

Genia wasn't using applause for Scotland's game to reduce the heat on a poor Wallabies display in the weekend's wretched flop at Murrayfield.

Australia's Will Genia, second right, waits to put the ball into the scrum watched by England's Ben Youngs during their rugby union international match between England and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Australia's Will Genia, second right, waits to feed a scrum during the England game earlier this month. Alastair Grant

"It hurts because you don't want to finish (the year) that way,” Genia said of the Scotland game.

"We still backed ourselves to get the job done (with 14 men) but obviously (it went) fairly pear-shaped.”

Toppling the All Blacks with a superb display in Brisbane in October, Kurtley Beale's consistent excellence in his return to Test rugby, scoring the most tries (59) in a year by a Wallabies side since 2003 and No. 8 Sean McMahon's rise were among the raft of 2017 highlights.

"Honestly, we've made significant strides as a team in terms of the culture of the group, how we want to play, wanting to win every single moment and continuing to build on that self-belief,” Genia said.

"While it was really disappointing (at Murrayfield), I don't think we can let it overshadow all the significant gains we've made throughout the year.”

Despite the poor end to the season, which resulted in seven wins and two draws from 14 Tests, Genia was excited about how it could translate at the 2019 World Cup.

"I definitely think we're building quite nicely,” he said.