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'I had a good cry': Ridiculous coincidence as 'rattled' Wallabies newcomer seals the deal

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23rd October, 2021
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Moments before Connal McInerney emerged as a Wallabies hero, James Slipper was giving him a special history lesson on the replacements’ bench.

“That’s my corner,” Slipper told the Brumbies debutant and pointed to the spot where McInerney would then plunge over to secure a hard-fought win over Japan in Oita.

Slipper crossed in the same spot against Uruguay at the 2019 World Cup for his first try in his 94th Test. It ended 10 years without a try for the prop forward.

“He said it took him 94 games so I’m just so lucky to do it in one,” said a still clearly stunned McInerney after the match.

His is an amazing story of resilience and determination. After emerging from the Australian under 20s set up, he was told by his now Brumbies coach, and Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar, that he wasn’t ready for Super Rugby.

A series of injuries have also held him back and three years ago he was playing in the Shute Shield for Easts before McKellar brought him to Canberra.

McInerney, a character with plenty of character, admitted he was tense as Japan got within four points and he was called into action.

“I was pretty rattled coming on with the game in the balance there, it could have gone either way. Thank God it went that way!” McInerney said.

“I was just so nervous all week. When the game was in the balance I wasn’t sure if I’d get on or not and luckily snagged a 9-10 minutes and it was so quick.

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“I can throw out some cliches – dream come true… But it’s something that I’ve worked for since I came into the Brumbies but never thought I’d achieve it. It’s absolutely surreal and to do here in Japan, I’m lost for words.”

His first call will be to his partner Ellie Brislane, who has played for the Brumbies women’s team.

“I’ve been talking to her twice a day. She’s probably been more excited than I have. And then just going through the list mum, my brother, my old man if I can get onto him but it’s pretty hard – he’s only just got a smartphone,” McInerney said.

The match-winning try capped an emotional few days and the Wallabies shared vision of him at the team announcement, where he appeared overcome, and put his head in his hands.

“I had a good cry when I got back to my room when I was out of the way the camera,” said McInerney. “When I put my head in my hands I realised they might be filming so I had to pull it together pretty quick.”

Slipper, meanwhile, was happy to hand over naming rights to the special patch of turf he now shares with a front-row teammate.

“Yeah that’s James Slipper corner down there,” he said. “But it took me nearly 100 games to score my first try and Connal scores in the same spot on debut. It’s probably better off being Connal’s corner.”

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