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'It was tough': Wallabies veteran opens up on 'uncomfortable' World Cup as 'hungry' stars back for Super trials

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1st February, 2024
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Former Wallabies captain James Slipper admits his teammates are itching to get back into club rugby and put the ugly World Cup chapter behind them.

Australia’s five franchises play trial games on Saturday with Wallabies stars across the national landscape to take the field earlier than expected after the calamitous group-stage exit at the showpiece tournament.

The Waratahs have name eight Wallabies in their starting XV to take on the Rebels, while the Melbourne-based side are expected to roll out a near full-strength side including Taniela Tupou off the bench.

Up in Brisbane and the Western Force will take on the Reds, with Nic White and Ben Donaldson set to pull on the jersey for the first time after making the move to Perth.

In Canberra, the Brumbies will host the Fiji Drua and several international stars are expected to get their first hit out after a long pre-season following the Wallabies’ early World Cup exit.

James Slipper looks on during a Wallabies training session, at Stade Roger Baudras on October 07, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The Wallabies have since farewelled coach Eddie Jones and replaced him with former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt, as the side looks for a fresh start after the code’s low point.

Slipper, who used his break to return home to Queensland and spend time with his infant daughter, said he and his World Cup teammates needed the mental recharge during the time off.

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“It’s probably fair to say a lot of us needed one,” he said.

“It was tough, one of the toughest things, or rugby environments I’ve been in.

“Results cover up a lot (and) when you’re not getting the results, the pressure was on … it was uncomfortable.

“When you come off disappointing results it’s only natural to look for something a bit more positive and the future is always positive for everyone in pre-season.

“That was quite a young team that went over to that World Cup, so they’re still pretty hungry to get out there and play rugby and I guess that’s a good thing.”

Blake Schoupp, James Slipper and Mark Nawaqanitawase  form a huddle following the Wallabies’ last WOrld Cup fixture against Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Fellow former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen, who’s now an assistant coach at the Brumbies, said the national team players were champing at the bit to play in the first trial game.

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“They’re ready, they’ve been in the program for a time, they’re fit and ready to go, they feel recharged,” he said.

“They’re all really focused on putting a good performance out there … (if you) look at the back end of last year the last memories aren’t good, so they want to create new ones.”

Mowen, a 15-cap Wallaby, said Australian rugby should seize the “unique” chance to build from scratch after the disappointing World Cup.

“You never know when the low point is, (but) it is an amazing opportunity for us to get things right,” he said.

“You don’t want resets in life, you prefer to go through plain sailing but it’s just not the reality. 

“There’s a lot of untapped talent, a lot of guys hungry to perform in the Australian jersey and for their Super Rugby franchises.”

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