2020 Wallabies; are they ‘all that’ after One Test

2020 Wallabies; are they 'all that' after One Test

All that, as in ‘all that good’ insinuates that the 2020 Wallabies are of vast difference to sides of previous years/eras after just one test.

This is after one match so jumping the gun, however, that is how some Australian media and former players are reacting. Speaking of times where the All Blacks aura has been broken. Somehow, it screams of both confidence yet of an inferiority complex. Of speaking too soon, so as to detract from any self-doubt.

Not to gloss over the highly impressive performance last Sunday. The 16-16 scoreline suggested it was even but most agree, the visitors won it by the judge’s scorecards. A much better opening 40 minutes, followed up by a defensive effort and in one example that they might be ‘all that’ the 2020 Wallabies didn’t bottle-it under pressure.

Reece Hodge did miss a kick although, many others would have struggled to even clear the bar. He hit the pole halfway to the top! And that is a classic segway – the 2020 Wallabies are halfway to a great start to the year. A draw, with one final test on Kiwi soil to achieve something not done since 1986.

Some are voicing their confidence already. That is admirable yet after one game….is it misplaced so soon? Wonder if it might be a bit premature.

2020 Wallabies; are they ‘all that’ after One Test

Former players like Fitzsimmons and David Campese were the earliest to raise their arms. Campo saying “That All Black aura is gone. The younger guys are not composed, they’re not the same”, in the Sydney Morning Herald.

His remarks were also based on the actions of the team, and of the organization. “They came out [NZ Rugby] and have been so arrogant [about Super Rugby], and I’m sitting there thinking ‘you know guys, you’re going to fall on your sword very soon’, and it’s starting to happen now.”

That early assumption is what some are questioning. That after one test in charge, that new head coach Dave Rennie has found the winning formula [even though it was a draw]. It makes for a mixed reaction from Australian rugby fans.

It is not that either former players are wrong. In many ways, and across the years of sport, every team’s time will come. No dynasty can last forever. And with a new brush, the Aussie side has thrust fresh new men and coaching staff into the mix.

What makes the 2020 Wallabies all that; Dave Rennie

They have Dave Rennie, one of the more respected coaches in the Southern hemisphere who, like his adversary John Plumtree, has been around the scene. An Under 20 World Championship winning coach, he was picked by Raelene Castle back in 2019, and has had to wait an enormous length of time, for this moment.

Although, you won’t here Rennie using the same language as Fitzsimmons or Campese. He is more concentrated on picking men who have self-belief  before they travel to (rather than bolstered by sound bites while reading newspapers). He said in July, “While there’s probably more depth in New Zealand, our job is to assemble 30-40 guys who we think can be really competitive.”

He is a pessimistic coach too. Never one to talk up his team too early. After the drawn test match in Wellington, Rennie was quick to pull-in any overconfidence. He said, “we saw last year where the Wallabies hammered the All Blacks in Perth and then lost 36-0 the following week.

“For us it’s got to be how we back up.”

That sensible understanding of New Zealand rugby is why Rennie was selected, his success in Super Rugby, and in the Guinness PRO14 also playing a part. Described in the Scotsman as ‘having distinguished himself as a sage rugby mind and a gentleman of the game’ the experience in the more structured Northern hemisphere environment will add a balance to his years (and Championships) with the Chiefs Super Rugby team.

Now ensconced in the 2020 Wallabies coaching group alongside Australians Scott Wisemantel and Matt Taylor as assistants, Rennie will use both his familiarity with NZ Rugby and an inventive attitude to International rugby, to plot the new course for his men.

Coach Dave Rennie and Michael Hooper speak to media after the Bledisloe Cup match on October 11, 2020. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

If Rennie is cautious with his words, then his employers are more optimistic. Rugby Australia interim chief executive Rob Clarke, who was “delighted” by the overwhelming support for the Wallabies on Sunday, heaped praise on the side for restoring pride. “I’m delighted by it, more than surprised,” Clarke told the Herald, “but at the end of the day, every rugby fan wants the Wallabies to compete and something they can be proud of.

What makes the 2020 Wallabies all that; Michael Hooper

Maturity is something that comes with age [sic] yet in rugby terms, in comes with games. An accumulation of experiences, of ups and downs. Of times where you go from ‘hero to zero’ in the matter of one result. A Super Rugby winner, to a runner up at the Rugby World Cup 2015. These are the formative years for Wallaby Michael Hooper.

He eclipsed 100 tests on Sunday, only the 12th Australian to achieve that. He has captained his country from the age of 22, and now at 28, many will believe that his time has come.

In fact, for the first time during Hooper’s tenure, he will be older than the All Blacks captain. Only by a few months though, as Sam Cane is in his first season as skipper. While an anomaly to some, it just might be the barrier that needs to be removed. Where his maturity, as well as in knowledge and understanding of the role, that gives not only the player but supporters too, another sense that this team is ‘all that’.

While it might sound conjectured; because he has been an International captain since the age of 22, yet it could create the right state of mind. The player’s around him, aside from a small handful of older men like James Slipper, have never been in a side not led by Hooper. So when Dave Rennie reaffirmed him as the leader, it conditioned them all to follow in his footsteps.

Like in the army – and whoever designed the 2020 Wallabies training kit, must have been in the services – you are regimented. It might be that with the continuity of direction, those established Wallabies will thrive in the collective environment. One that is built on respect, encouragement and from this latest positive result, a belief that this group can reclaim the Bledisloe Cup.

Give them credit, it might just be their time

Every beginning of a rugby season comes with hope. The hope that it’ll be the year when all the stars align – thinking that all the work was done in preparation, to foretell a productive year. And to begin with a draw, no wonder people are being positive.

There is nothing wrong with that. Give them credit, give them encouragement. Just do not put the cart in front of the horse at this early stage. A competition is won after each game is won, and the Bledisloe Cup is played over a series of matches. Not one. So for the 2020 Wallabies campaign, only one out of four games have been completed. 25% of the way to their goal.

So widespread support is not something to dismiss. It will be given to the home side, and the All Blacks use that as motivation. So in the Covid-19 era, where no traveling supporters are packing Eden Park, it will need to come from somewhere.

Media footage of Wallabies fans back in Australia dressed in Gold will go some way to it. Images of kids at schools wearing jerseys, of banks and supermarkets waving the national flag are all positive messages. Ones that are more crucial than the preemptive gesturing of former players. Home fans are the backbone of nationhood, and Australians do that well.

Their team will be motivated, no matter what observer’s presume. They can be in the category of helpful or a hindrance. So waiting until after the next game is the best strategy.

Now, if the side can play just as well as they did last Sunday, then many many more will be saying the 2020 Wallabies are ‘all that good’.


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