Wallabies promise soul searching ahead of Bledisloe 4
The Wallabies have promised a unsparing appraisal of their record-breaking loss to the All Blacks in Saturday’s third Bledisloe Cup rugby test, which extended New Zealand's firm grip on the trophy to 18 years .
Australia’s 43-5 loss on a rainy night in Sydney was their heaviest in 117 years of test matches against New Zealand. They have only a week to repair some of their deficiencies before the final match of the Bledisloe series and the second match of the Tri Nations Championship at Brisbane next weekend.
There was little to be salvaged from Saturday’s defeat which inevitably seems to have damaged the Wallabies’ confidence and morale. Only weeks after a 16-16 draw with New Zealand in Wellington promped predictions of a new dawn in Australian rugby, the coach and players charged with ushering in that new era seemed deflated.
Head coach Dave Rennie sought to place the loss in a long-term perspective, saying “we’re five or six weeks into a four-year campaign” targeting the World Cup in 2023.
“Look, all I’m going to say is we’re going to keep working hard,” Rennie said. “We think we’ve got some good kids coming through, we need to respond immediately and the plan is you’ll see that next week.”
With the Bledisloe gone and the Tri-Nations slipping away, coupled with the All Blacks improving match by match it seems unlikely Rennie’s young Wallabies can stage a major turnaround in the space of a week. The first step towards doing so must be an honest appraisal of their failings on Saturday.
“As a leader you just have to make sure we don’t sugarcoat anything,” prop Allan Alaalatoa said Sunday. “We have to hold the boys accountable and everyone has to be better across the board.”
“We’ve been in this position before but the longer you hang onto that loss, the worse it will be. That initial feeling of boys being gutted, being devastated is good.”
Captain Michael Hooper told reporters Sunday the Wallabies’ confidence had been hit by the six tries to one defeat.
“It’s never easy to put losses behind you,” he said. “But as players and as staff you’ve got to understand how you can be better and make sure we have a good plan heading into this week because we’ve got another opportunity to rectify ourselves on Saturday at (Brisbane).
“There was no lack of intent or lack of effort but we’ve got to be more accurate in terms of our kicking, our chase line in defense.
“You can’t score if you don’t have the ball. We only built three or so phases and then we lost the pill, so our handling in those conditions, we need to be better there.”
Rennie, Hooper and senior Wallabies were eager to shield young flyhalf Noah Lolesio from any blame from the defeat. Lolesio made his test debut Saturday and had a difficult match, missing crucial touches, kicking inaccurately and making errors on defense.
Alaalatoa said Lolesio was hampered by the lack of a solid platform set by the Australian forwards.
“It’s on everyone. The playmakers can’t do their job if the forwards are losing the ball,” Alaalatoa said. “In order to build pressure, everyone has a role in doing that and it was just different guys in different stages so it’s something we need to look at as a whole team.”
Lolesio seems unlikely to start again in Brisbane unless injuries make it necessary. Rennie has few other players he can inject to lift his team and he can only demand improvement from those who took the field Saturday.
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