Australian rugby has finally given us fans something to smile about recently. Last weekend the Wallabies stood up to their always promised potential, smashing the Pumas in Argentina, and this weekend just gone, the Australia Sevens side lost to the Kiwis in the final of the opening round of the world championships held on the Gold Coast.
Leading into the upcoming third Bledisloe match, the Wallabies received a much needed confidence boost, beating Argentina 54-17 in Rosario. Buoyed by a Israel Folau hat-trick and a try to Bernard Foley on debut, the Wallabies avoided the wooden spoon for this year’s Rugby Championship, instead finishing on a dismal two wins, both against Argentina.
On the win, captain James Horwill said, “It’s a big confidence booster for the team. Sometimes you need games like that where things come off and things go your way. I’m very proud of the way the group went about their work this week at training and it’s really pleasing to get a result on the scoreboard.”
After the game, although there were a few questions left unanswered, particularly concerning the Aussies’ defence, the positives certainly outweighed them. When the ARU talks of playing the running game, last weekend’s game is what they are talking about. Will Genia was back to his best, Israel Folau showed what a threat he is with the ball in hand and in space. Joe Tomane made line break after line break as well. Quade Cooper did some good things too, which compensated for the two terrible mistakes he made.
Coach Ewen McKenzie said the team had pared things back during the week and focused on how they wanted to play.
“We went back to where we started really. We had our moments, we could have capitalised a few other times but in the end we just really played with purpose and some toughness in key moments,” he said.
In saying this, it does need to be remembered the Wallabies didn’t live up to their believed potential when McKenzie took the reins from sacked coach Robbie Deans following the Lions Tour loss. This was a key message in James Horwill’s post match comments, saying the team needed to treat the victory as a “stepping stone” to bigger things.
“We’ve got the All Blacks in two weeks and then we head on a five week European tour so this hopefully is a stepping stone for things to come,” Horwill stated.
Meanwhile in Sevens news, World champions New Zealand have proven to be too strong for an undermanned Australia to win the Gold Coast rugby sevens world series tournament. The Kiwis overcame a sluggish start to run over Australia and take out the title with a 40-19 victory. After initially leading 12-0, the Kiwis showed their attacking prowess, spreading the ball, and using their side step to great effect to punish the Australians both sides of the half time break. The tournament weekend was filled with great flair and skill exhibited on the park, highlighted in Australia’s double extra-time win over South Africa. A bruising affair, the Aussies were left battered to face the Kiwis, who were just too strong.
The Wallabies now play New Zealand in the third Bledisloe Test, followed by a five game European tour. The Rugby Sevens’ next stop is Dubai at the end of November.