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Rugby Championship - Rugby Union: What we've learned

After a complete flip in results in the second round of the Rugby Championship following the first week of action, the tournament is proving to be unpredictable this season.

Here we take a look at what we learned from the sound round after impressive victories for both New Zealand and Argentina.

A timely reminder from the All Blacks

After losing three Test matches on the bounce for the first time since 1998, New Zealand needed to produce a response and they did just that in Johannesburg.

A 35-23 victory over the reigning world champions South Africa, after a 26-10 defeat to the Boks the previous weekend, was an impressive turnaround for an All Blacks side under pressure.

Another defeat might have seen the end of head coach Ian Foster's tenure with the side, if some quarters of the media are to be believed.

New Zealand are rarely in a position where they have a point to prove, due to their success in the international game since the late 1980s.

They certainly had a point to prove at Ellis Park and to beat the Springboks in such fashion at such an iconic ground really silenced the critics.

The All Blacks, since the first tournament back in 1987, have always been favourites going into a World Cup but for the major competition next summer they are second favourites at 3/1.

With hosts France at 5/2, Saturday's win for New Zealand was a nice little reminder that the All Blacks will still take some stopping to be denied another world title next year.

Troubling signs for Wallabies

Many eyebrows will have been raised after Argentina bounced back from defeat in round one to secure a thumping 48-17 win over Australia.

The Pumas had been leading against the Wallabies until the 65th minute before being blown away in the last quarter of their first match with the Aussies.

This time Argentina were able to put together an 80 minute performance and truly humbled Australia, who themselves are starting to feel the pressure ahead of next year's World Cup.

The Aussies were without skipper Michael Hooper for Saturday's game and missed his leadership and impact at the breakdown.

Stand-off Quade Cooper picked up an Achilles injury in the previous encounter and his creativity was certainly missing in San Juan.

Head coach Dave Rennie has struggled to get consistency out of an Australia side that are capable of beating any side on their day.

That won't be enough to win a World Cup and explains why they are outsiders at 12/1 to win the tournament on French soil.

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The bigger picture in mind

With teams making changes to the sides for more than just injuries, it's clear that all four nations are looking to give more players game time ahead of the World Cup.

While winning the Rugby Championship will be a serious objective for all these sides, working on combinations and creating the strongest team possible for the 2023 World Cup is the bigger goal at play.

Reigning champions South Africa are often underestimated going into the major tournament and they look good value at 5/1.

Considering the Boks have recently overcome New Zealand and enjoyed a series win over the British & Irish Lions last year, South Africa have the quality and depth to make a real challenge for the title.

The Boks hierarchy have not been afraid to make changes to the side, which was highlighted in their series win over Wales.

South Africa were criticised as being disrespectful after making 14 changes from the first Test to the second against the Welsh but it did allow the management to see different combinations.

The Boks have some impressive depth in most positions and is why they simply can't be underestimated for the World Cup in 14 months' time.

As for Argentina, they have struggled at World Cups in the past but their win over Australia at the weekend will make teams wary of what the Pumas are capable of.

A strong pack has been at the heart of Argentina's game for countless years and they were able to put the Wallabies to the sword over the weekend.

The Pumas are a formidable team to face on home soil but significant questions are raised about Argentina when they are on their travels.

Their odds of 50/1 for the World Cup title next year highlights the need to do the business away from the comforts of home.

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