The Roar
The Roar



What Rennie and Wallabies can learn from their 2012 Spring Tour

Dave Rennie (Andrew Phan/supplied by Rugby Australia)
Roar Guru
16th July, 2022

Twickenham Stadium, England. The date was November 17th, 2012.

In front of a packed stadium of 81,000, the Wallabies and coach Robbie Deans were walking into the lion’s den.

The number of players they were missing was staggering, many whom were backbone of the team.

Will Genia, Quade Cooper, David Pocock, James Horwill, James O’Connor, Pat McCabe, Kane Douglas, Scott Higginbottom (suspension), Rob Simmons (suspension), Rob Horne, Dan Vickerman (forced retirement) and Saia Fainga’a.

Robbie Deans was under immense pressure and needed a win.

Under his reign, the Wallabies suffered a shocking loss against Scotland in a rain-soaked night in Newcastle to start that international season.

In what was a much-needed confidence boost, they defeated Wales in what was a 3-0 series whitewash during their tour down under.

In the Rugby Championships later that year, they had come up equal second with South Africa with only their superior point difference separating them.



They failed to beat the All Blacks (a common theme under Robbie Deans), with two losses and the final game ending in a draw.

Their Spring tour didn’t get off to a good start as well as they were thumped 33-6 by last year’s World Cup finalist France.

The official team list for the day was as follows: Robinson, Polota-Nau, Alexander, Timani, Sharpe (C), Dennis, Hooper, Palu, Phipps, Beale, Ioane, Tapuai, Ashley-Cooper, Cummins, Barnes. RES: Moore, Slipper, Kepu, Samo, Gill, Sheehan, Harris, Mitchell.

Nathan Sharpe, 34, who had announced his retirement twice that year, had been recalled to step up as stand-in captain to lead the team.


At that point Sharpe was their third captain during this period with both Genia and Pocock taking the reins whilst first choice captain Horwill was out with a long-term injury.

Michael Hooper, 20, and had just debuted for the Wallabies earlier in the year yet was a regular fixture within the squad.

He started on the bench in his first game then after Pocock’s injury he ended up starting nearly game in his first year as a Wallaby.

Players like Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale had been used interchangeably throughout the year, both at times sharing the role as 10 and 15 with Barnes starting at 12 twice.

The game started with both Barnes and English 10 Toby Flood kicking successfully to keep their teams in the game.

In stunning fashion Nick Phipps had secured a line break and passed to Nick Cummins who dived into the corner for his first “meat pie” in his international career.

A controversial try from Manu Tuilagi though marred the first half which put England in front 14-11 and confident going into half-time with the lead.


The second half, the Wallabies defence was impregnable and defiant in face of the English team and hostile crowd.

Barnes successfully kicking three penalties to give the wallabies a 20-14 lead.

Full time was called and the Wallabies had done in the impossible.

Against all odds, despite the injuries they had secured a victory in the old enemy’s territory and gave Deans a much-needed victory.

Michael Hooper Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

After the game, the captain Nathan Sharpe said of the win, “we spoke about character and resolve and that’s something we showed tonight”.

The much-needed result had a resounding impact on the team as they went on to finish the spring tour beating both Italy and Wales.


The tour gave players like Hooper, Cummins and Tapuai a chance to shine who without the massive injury toll may not been given the opportunity to start.

The results gave Deans some breathing space but not for long.

Less than a year later, Deans resigned after a disappointing British and Irish Lions tour in which they lost 2-1 with the last game being an abysmal 41-16 defeat.

So, what can Dave Rennie and the current crop of Wallabies learn from this game?

Nathan Sharpe said it best, two words, “character” and “resolve”.

This next game could be defining within Rennie’s current build up into next year’s World Cup.

Players like Nick Frost, Tom Wright and Suliasi Vunivalu have a chance to make a great impression and secure their place within the Wallaby squad.


Reece Hodge, whose suffered from poor form this year at the Rebels, has a chance to redeem himself after being recalled into the squad if Rennie places him in the match day team.

Harry Wilson, who many believe should be starting, if given the chance can show Rennie why he shouldn’t be left on the sidelines.

Michael Hooper was there, he was apart of that match-winning squad, its up to him and the rest of senior players to stand up and inspire the team.