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Just a jersey or a reason for Wallabies hope at Twickenham?

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Expert
22nd November, 2018
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It was deep into injury time, after digging deep mentally for 80 minutes, when the penny dropped as to why the Wallabies will beat England at Twickenham this weekend.

You may call it tenuous, but the statistics don’t lie.

The jersey. The Indigenous jersey the Wallabies will wear in their last Test match of 2018.

Undefeated! That’s it – a 100 per cent strike rate. Worn once, admittedly. But nonetheless, one from one, baby! And it was against the (once) all-conquering All Blacks. Only last year.

Depressingly, that’s just about the only reason that can be conjured up when mulling whether Australia have a slither of hope in London.

We all know the form lines, with the most dire for Michael Cheika’s men probably being this: a ninth loss from 13 Tests this year would make it the Wallabies’ worst season since 1958.

Should they lose on Sunday, they will also become the first Wallabies team to suffer six consecutive losses to England in the 109-year history between the two countries.

Michael Lynagh labelled the Wallabies “stale” and “predictable”. Simon Poidevin believes the forwards should be “seriously embarrassed” by recent showings.

Bob Dwyer was just as emphatic, saying the Wallabies haven’t “got the strength or pace or agility or skill to construct any form of game that would give us a win”.

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Dwyer’s assessment is hard to argue against. Australia have drifted to a level of mediocrity since the 2015 World Cup final that means it’s just about unfathomable to think the Wallabies can go with England at Twickenham.

There’s no facet of the game in which the Wallabies could be conceived as matching it with the Poms, let alone being dominant.

Simply, they look very little chance of going around them or through them, and little chance of keeping their bruising forward pack at bay.

Kurtle Beale in the Wallabies indigenous jersey

Australia will wear their Indigenous jersey against England in the final Spring Tour match. (AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST)

Even over the last three years amid the Wallabies’ slide, there would be something to cling to that may offer hope of victory at Twickenham.

It would go something like this: if the Wallabies scrum can enjoy parity and territory is fairly even, then hopefully Will Genia, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau can light up the backline and edge home against England’s inevitable six-or-so penalty goals.

But the Wallabies forwards are getting bullied and the backline can’t get much going either.
It’s got to the point where even if something clicks emotionally for the Wallabies and they go up a few gears physically – as they did in that Bledisloe game three upset last year in the Indigenous jersey debut – then it still won’t be enough.

The gulf between the two sides in terms of strength, execution and skill seem to have grown and seem too large to bridge this time around.

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This gloomy outlook is symptomatic of following the fortunes of a side that is in a rut that seems to get deeper and deeper with each Test match. Personnel changes should be made, otherwise this mediocrity is being too readily endorsed.

A backline shuffle would be a start. What about this? Genia at No.9, Matt Toomua at five-eighth, Samu Kerevi at inside centre, Adam Ashley-Cooper at outside centre, Beale at fullback and on the wings Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty.

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Anything else to spur the Wallabies on? It’s Genia’s 100th Wallabies Test. Genia points out that the Wallabies have only conceded 16 points over the last fortnight.

Also, it’s 235 days until the Wallabies’ next Test match, so the incentive is there to bag a big scalp at Twickenham and take a bit of the bleakness away leading into a World Cup year.

Otherwise, negativity will be rife following another loss.

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But maybe it’s about the jersey.

The Wallabies have certainly had time to dwell on the significance of the Indigenous jersey, with a giant version of the jersey laying on the grass outside their London hotel this week.

To me, the Indigenous jersey looks brilliant but more importantly, I love what it represents – a link to Australia’s Indigenous history that should be highlighted and proudly celebrated.

Last month, Beale was adamant that the jersey – with distinctive Aboriginal drawings adorning the shoulders and bottom section – inspired the Wallabies.

“I know it (the Indigenous jersey) can galvanise the group leading up to a big game, I certainly felt that last year (against the All Blacks),” Beale said before the Wallabies departed for their northern hemisphere tour.

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“By wearing the jersey it brought us together, even tighter, and we got the job done.”
For Beale, it’s clear that his Aboriginal heritage is central to his character. But to think that a jersey and its symbolism could inspire his Wallabies teammates at Twickenham on the weekend, some may roll their eyes and dismiss Beale’s views as just a few hollow clichés.

But given the gap in belief and form between the two sides at the moment, if the Wallabies can replicate their emotive win in the jersey last year and stun the Poms at home, then the jersey effect – even with a very small sample size – might be tough to dismiss.