About a week ago I wrote and article hypothesising the possible positive outcomes if the Wallabies had managed to clinch the Bledisloe from their trans-Tasman cousins.
I included the caveat that it all started at the weekend. Many commenters, understandably, questioned what I had been drinking, with some even wanting to give it a try.
Well. It’s safe to say now that the hope that had been built up from Super Rugby AU and the fixtures in New Zealand has firmly been extinguished.
The record defeat to New Zealand sealed their retention of the Bledisloe Cup since reclaiming it back in 2003. Former Wallabies have tried to take positives out of the fixture, such as the fact that Rennie blooded a number of younger players – and that said players will learn more from this defeat than they would have from victory.
But what did they learn? That to beat the All Blacks you need to be at your best and hope they have an off day? That not tackling will inevitably lead to tries conceded?
Ian Foster as come out and claimed that the score reflected how seriously the All Blacks take the Cup and with it, the respect that they have for the Wallabies.
The inclination being that the New Zealand would have let up, not scored so many tries and conceded a couple more if they considered the Wallabies an easy beat.
There may be some truth in that, but that does nothing to quell the angst felt by the rugby union loving public in Australia who have seen the pinnacle of their national talent be roundly beaten. Again.
Having watched the match a couple of times and having no skin in it (being a Pom), the performances were not good.
Unfortunately, Lolesio didn’t have the opportunity to show what he could do. He was working on the backfoot throughout – and was hidden in defence.
I suppose, what did we expect? On debut, against New Zealand, it would have had to have been a world-class performance to be able to outplay both Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett as a first receiver, without the option of leaning on experience outside.
Irae Simone will have better games, but you can’t help but feel that in hindsight the backline selection was questionable.
If this had been a New Zealand, England, Ireland or South Africa, then these players would have been drip fed in, one-by-one, garnering experience, integrating in to an already experienced team. Clearly, this isn’t necessarily an option for Dave Rennie given the player pool available; but still why not look to be solid defensively and try to provide as much experience as possible?
I’m not the biggest fan of Reece Hodge, but surely sticking him in at 12 to provide some experience, a relieving boot and physicality outside of Lolesio would have been good; and including Jack Maddocks on the wing in place of Filipo Daugunu provides further experience to try to help those still in their international infancy.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing; and these players may not have made a real difference but now the Wallabies are left with two players who have played one lost one – and by a record score I might add.
I’m an advocate of blooding youngsters.
I was thoroughly impressed by last year’s U20s; and many of those players showed their potential in both Super Rugby (what we had of it) and Super Rugby AU.
But the realities are that you can’t just throw them in to international rugby collectively and expect them to swim. With Bledisloe 4 on the horizon and nothing to lose, in an odd way, now is the time for Rennie to go for broke.
Charge the boys up. Tell them to go out there and hit anyone in a black shirt as hard as they can. Get under their skin, a la Italy did versus England at the weekend.
Instruct them to keep hold of the ball. No unnecessary offloads, aimless Gary Owens or shovelling bad ball. Stand up, take responsibility for trying to get the team moving forward and do the dog. Show some grit.
Rennie has said that they are four weeks in to a four year program. But the false start needs addressing and unless the Wallabies can show the fight that the Australian public deserve, then the worry is that the end target will be reconsidered and the bar will continue to be set lower.