Australia will have to arrest an alarming run of form if they are to upset the odds and deny powerhouses New Zealand Rugby Championship glory.
The Wallabies face a daunting opener against world champions the All Blacks in Sydney, a venue where they shipped 54 points to Steve Hansen's men 12 months ago, on Saturday.
A year ago, Australia won only two matches and finished second above South Africa only on points differential.
Head coach Michael Cheika has plenty to ponder, but there are positives as well for the men in yellow. We take a look at the positives and negatives ahead of the tournament.
Australia are lacking in options at centre. Samu Kerevi sustained a ruptured bicep and is not expected to return until the trips to South Africa and Argentina in the latter stages of the tournament at the earliest.
Fellow outside centre Tevita Kuridrani is also expected to miss a large chunk of the Championship with a pectoral issue.
Reece Hodge will likely fill the void, while the returning Matt Toomua provides depth at centre and fly-half, but it is an area opposition teams are likely to focus on.
It has been an unhappy spell for Cheika's side who finished 2017 with heavy defeats away at England and Scotland, matches which followed a narrow win in Wales.
Things did not massively improve in the June Test series against Ireland. An 18-9 triumph in the first contest provided brief respite as the tourists roared back to win the next two contests.
Australia did finish the 2017 with a morale-boosting win over New Zealand in the final Bledisloe Cup encounter, but only managed to beat Argentina in the Rugby Championship last season.
ALL BLACKS OUT FOR REVENGE?
New Zealand are again, inevitably, the team to beat in this year's tournament.
The top-ranked team remain the standard bearers in world rugby and even the most optimistic fans of the other three nations will struggle to believe they can be toppled.
Even more worryingly for the Wallabies, New Zealand will be stung by beating beaten the last time the teams met. The All Blacks do not lose often, and when they do there are usually repercussions.
While Australia's form is hardly anything to write home about, they do have the added bonus of playing three of their opening four matches on home soil.
New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina visit Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast respectively, with Australia facing a short hop to Auckland in game two.
If they can make the most of the home comforts then Australia will be in a strong position heading into the closing weekends.
KEY TALENT BACK IN SUPER RUGBY
With the Rugby World Cup just a year out, Cheika has been successful in convincing several of Australia's exports to return to Super Rugby.
Kurtley Beale and Will Genia are back on Aussie soil, while the skilful Matt Toomua is restored to the squad having agreed a deal with Rugby Australia and Waratahs - who he will join after the 2018-19 Premiership season with Leicester Tigers.
David Pocock also returned for the 2018 Super Rugby season, having had a spell in Japan, while captain Michael Hooper recently signed a new five-year deal.
This might seem an obvious one, but there is no doubt that there is motivation.
Firstly to end New Zealand's stranglehold on the trophy but, perhaps just as importantly, to prove that competition is still strong in the Southern Hemisphere.
Add in the fact that several players in an ageing squad will know they face a last-chance saloon ahead of next year's World Cup, there is plenty to play for.
|Saints pull away for blowout victory over Eagles, extend winning streak to nine|
|Martinez laments loss of control by Belgium|
|Logano claims first NASCAR Cup championship|
|Luis Enrique delighted with attitude of Spain´s squad|
|Stevens tells Celtics to get ´tougher´|
|Griezmann: Being Messi´s lieutenant played a part in rejecting Barcelona|
|Curry proud of how Warriors handled Green-Durant incident|
|Courtois: Belgium thought Nations League job was done|
|Howell ends 11-year title drought to deny record-breaking Rodgers|
|Robben dismisses Bayern title talk|
|Huge blow for Redskins as QB Smith breaks tibia and fibula|
|Switzerland 5 Belgium 2: Seferovic treble crowns incredible comeback|
|Titans DC Pees taken to hospital during Colts game|
|Spain 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0: Debutant Mendez spares Morata´s blushes|
|Peterson goes sixth on rushing touchdowns list|
|Titans QB Mariota suffers elbow injury|
|Djokovic hails much-improved Zverev|
|Arnautovic refuses to discuss West Ham future after Austria win|
|Redskins QB Smith carted off after gruesome ankle injury|
|Jaguars shut down Jalen Ramsey trade rumours|
|Classy Zverev revels in victory, hails defeated Djokovic|
|Forget the Nations League was ever invented, jokes Northern Ireland boss O´Neill|
|Magnificent Zverev claims ATP Finals title|
|Mahrez double fires Algeria to 2019 AFCON|
|Mbappe hoping for French winner of Ballon d´Or|
|Northern Ireland 1 Austria 2: Last-gasp winner denies hosts maiden Nations League point|
|Teenager admits assaulting Wales great Thomas|
|Browns deny Condoleezza Rice is candidate for head coaching job|
|Koeman: Netherlands not favourites for Germany clash|
|Dalic ´not sad´ but blames fatigue for Croatia relegation|
|Proud Southgate hails England hero Kane as world´s best goalscorer|
|Last-gasp Exeter penalty try shatters Bristol|
|Mbappe dismisses talk of Cavani-Neymar rift|
|Keita will do ´great things´ for Liverpool – Mane|
|Mourinho needs time to fix Manchester United - Veron|
|Southgate sees progress as England reward loyal support|
|Miller hungry to ´knock out a Brit´ after Dinu demolition|
|Yasir, Hasan put Pakistan in control with five-wicket hauls|
|England´s resilience delights Kane as Three Lions secure Nations League Finals spot|
|Kane proves Nations League importance to England in Wembley decider|
|Muller, Hummels still important for Germany, says Low|
|Tevez in line for start in Copa Libertadores final second leg|
|England 2 Croatia 1: Kane able to secure Nations League Finals spot|
|It doesn´t sound real - Molinari stunned by 2018 exploits|
|Wales legend Thomas victim of alleged homophobic attack|
|Marquez crashes again as Dovizioso wins rain-interrupted Valencia GP|
|Warriors owner denies taking sides following Green-Durant spat|
|Alisson can become a global great, says Dida|
|The Sunday Seven - 7 Key Opta facts for NFL Week 11|
|Teen driver ´fine´ after sustaining spinal fracture in F3 crash|
|Willett wins first title since Masters triumph, Molinari tops Race to Dubai standings|
|Southgate overcomes ´stigma´ of being sacked to thrive with England|
|Anthony to Lakers ´not a question for myself´, says LeBron James|
|Warriors´ Stephen Curry staying ´cautious´ with injury recovery|
|Gunter hopes Bale can help family jet in to witness Wales record|
|Root pleased to practice what he preached|
|Tianjin Quanjian threaten action after Modeste returns to Cologne|
|I had to stop Kemba getting 70! – Jimmy Butler reflects on dramatic game-winner|
|Molinari wins Race to Dubai|
|Rooney: Some ex-players can´t come to terms with England doing well|
|In a spin: England´s win against Sri Lanka sets new record|
|Ogier wins sixth straight WRC title|
|Rogic, Kruse to miss Socceroos´ Lebanon friendly|
|Joerger has Kings´ ´full support´, says GM Divac|
|England seal series win over Sri Lanka|
|Butler´s heroics spoil Walker´s 60-point game as 76ers beat Hornets|
|He´s an honest guy – Djokovic defends Zverev after Finals controversy|
|Bonucci boos a ´mistake´ by fans, says Mancinima|
|Ronaldo still part of Portugal squad – Santos|
|Santos satisfied as Portugal reach Nations League Finals|