The whispers around the All Blacks starting fly-half position for the defence of their World Cup title are beginning to grow more boisterous with each passing Super Rugby round.
There is no more fitting description for what Wallaby fans have been crying out for in 2012.
Many rugby followers I know have specifically mentioned a necessary rebirth that Australian rugby must undergo, and specifically linked it to that great moment in Australian rugby known as ‘The Cornelson Test.’
In 1978 Australian rugby stood at a crossroads. The early 1970s are in many people’s view the lowest ebb that Australian rugby ever reached.
After beating England at home in 1975 and beating Wales in 1978, Australia finally had a chance to show their recent home success wasn’t smoke and mirrors against New Zealand in 1978.
It wasn’t to be, however. Despite losing the first Test by a narrow margin (Ken Wright missed what would have been the winning penalty), Australia were swept away in the second Test.
At this point in time the Wallabies were in a state of crisis. Many in the side felt despondent about how the team had performed given the high expectations.
The team galvanised, however, and produced one of the most remarkable performances in Wallabies history.
Australia came out in the third Test and inflicted on New Zealand what I believe may have been their biggest defeat, at that time, ever.
The game is most famous for Greg Cornelson scoring four tries. Interestingly, not one of those tries came from a pass, and I think I calculated that he ran less than four metres with the ball to score those tries.
But the significance of the game wasn’t Cornelson’s four tries, the significance of the game was that for many people this was the beginning of Australia becoming New Zealand’s regular foe.
In a period where Springbok tours were becoming less and less common, the Wallabies emerged as New Zealand’s biggest rival.
As John Kirwan once said, ‘Whenever I played Australia, it was the best in the world versus the second best in the world.’ Most times the best were New Zealand, but not always…
As a passionate Wallabies supporter I can say this is perhaps the most deflating year of watching the Wallabies play since 2005. The worst thing about this year has been the sense of sense of inevitability about the results this year.
Despite the Wallabies beating Wales 3-0 earlier this year, good judges of Test match rugby know the Wallabies were very close to losing the last of those two Tests.
Normally I get excited before the Bledisloe Cup. However this year I had little reason to think the Wallabies would turn things around, and losing another Bledisloe series felt like going through the motions once more.
I hate saying this, but it feels like Australia isn’t New Zealand’s great foe right now. For that matter, neither is South Africa.
Things aren’t too different to 1978. In 1978 Australia beat Wales in a series, just as Australia beat Wales this year. In 1978 the Wallabies lost the first two Tests to New Zealand, and in 2012 they’ve lost their first two.
If there are any Wallabies reading this I’d like them to know that the final Bledisloe Cup Test this year is a big deal. This isn’t a dead rubber. It’s an opportunity to change the path for the Wallabies. It will mean a big deal to me if the Wallabies win.
Beat the All Blacks and make them feel it, make it hurt.
Two Test matches should be in the minds of the Wallabies as they prepare – Eden Park (1978) and Wellington (1990).
Whether it’s a Cornelson Test or a Phil Kearns moment, the Wallabies desperately need ‘that Test’ which Wallabies fans will talk about years in the future.
I’m sure when the Wallabies won those two Tests they didn’t know what those Tests meant for the future of Australian rugby.
After the Cornelson Test, the next year (1979), the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup back for the first time in 30 years.
The next year after 1990, the Wallabies won the World Cup.
They wouldn’t have known what their wins meant in the bigger picture until they looked back and realised it was the beginning of something.
I’m a believer that the Wallabies, if they want to, can give us the Cornelson Test Australia desperately needs.