The Reds' Super Rugby win over a Crusaders side bristling with All Blacks was an ominous sign that Australia loom as a major World Cup threat, New Zealand media said Monday.
With New Zealand desperate to win the September and October tournament on home soil, former All Black Justin Marshall said Queensland's 18-13 victory in the Super Rugby final signalled a "nightmare" Wallabies revival.
"It's Rugby World Cup year and cue the awakening of that great slumbering giant called Australian rugby," Marshall wrote in the Dominion Post.
Much like Germany at football's World Cup, two-time champions Australia have a history of tearing up the form book at the sport's quadrennial showcase, unlike the All Blacks, who have underachieved since their sole title in 1987.
The New Zealand Herald said the Reds' win was a wake-up call to the home side, who will enter the World Cup as favourites.
"The All Blacks will lose the World Cup - that's the subtext to the Super Rugby grand final," columnist Chris Rattue said.
"The nerves are jangling, the World Cup is not far away."
Players from the Reds dominated Australia's Tri-Nations 40-man squad named Sunday, with 15 selections, while the All Blacks 34-man squad has 11 Crusaders.
Neither squad is expected to undergo major changes for the World Cup.
The New Zealand Herald's Wynne Gray said the Super Rugby result had given the Wallabies a psychological boost ahead of the tournament.
"Victory will create a Wallaby-wide good vibe about the World Cup, the cheerleaders in the fourth estate will go up a gear and [coach] Robbie Deans will be urging caution," he wrote.
Marshall said there were positive aspects to Australian resurgence, although he wished it had not happened with the World Cup around the corner.
"While the rise of Australian rugby is not necessarily a bad thing - having a strong rival can only be good for our game - the great shame for us partisan Kiwis is that the timing has coincided with a terribly important year for New Zealand rugby," he said.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said he believed Australia were "always going to be a potent threat in the Ruby World Cup, and that hasn't changed".
But he said there were threats from other nations.
"South Africa have got a history of playing well at Rugby World Cups," he told Radio New Zealand.
"They play a very narrow style without making mistakes, kick a lot of ball, drive a lot of line-outs etc, so they'll be difficult.
"England are an improving team, what the French are going to bring, who knows? And the Irish beat the English in the last game of the Six Nations and played particularly well.
"Amongst all of those teams there is some quality."
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