The British and Irish Lions will be coming up against the second best team in world rugby next summer, according to Sir Ian McGeechan.
With less than a year to go before the Lions head Down Under, McGeechan has been impressed with what he has seen from the Wallabies in the June internationals.
Robbie Deans' side will head into the inaugural Rugby Championship on the back of a 3-0 series whitewash of Six Nations champions Wales.
World Cup-winners New Zealand underlined their status as the No.1 team with a thumping of Ireland, while South Africa were given some uncomfortable moments against a young England line-up.
And although Wales were only just edged out in each of the three Tests - while Scotland beat a much-changed line-up in their one-off match - McGeechan rates the Australia squad.
"It will be interesting to see how the southern hemisphere competition maps out now Argentina are involved," McGeechan told Sky Sports.
"New Zealand are out in front as the best team in the world at the moment and the rugby they are playing is at a different level.
"South Africa were rattled by England and don't have the same experience that they previously had to see them through, so to me Australia are the second best side.
"For me the order for the Rugby Championship would be New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
"Wales, though, were desperately unlucky in their matches against Australia and it could have so easily been a 3-0 series win to them but for the odd penalty and wrong decision.
"It was the same for the Lions in '09 when decisions just didn't quite come off or penalties went against us.
"Wales looked the best of the northern hemisphere sides and the most able to cope with the challenges against the southern hemisphere."
McGeechan, a veteran of seven Lions tours in a variety of capacities, admits that the current order could change - with a lot of rugby to come over the coming months.
However he knows that regardless of form the Lions will have to cope with facing a team that will have gelled together.
"Although Australia are the second strongest side in my view, whether that is still the case in 12 months is the big question as form and teams can change," said McGeechan.
"Australia have a talented group of players and they will have been playing together and working hard for this Lions tour. That is the challenge for the Lions to deal with.
"If the Lions lose one or two matches in the build-up then that doesn't matter. It is about building combinations and pulling the players together ahead of the Test matches."
The Lions will kick-off the tour with an historic clash with the Barbarians in Hong Kong - and McGeechan believes that this could be the perfect start.
"It will be interesting having the first game in Hong Kong," he added. "You need time for a group to come together and this fixture gives them a reasonable quality of opposition.
"It is then on to Western Australia and things built up nicely to the test matches from there."
Sir Ian McGeechan is the ambassador for FirstCape wine which has launched www.lionswineclub.com in association with The British & Irish Lions. For more information about FirstCape wine visit www.firstcape.com