A final berth was never job done for the Wallabies and a runner-up finish is only the beginning for this team, coach Michael Cheika says.
While the future of a handful of experienced players uncertain as they head to European clubs post-tournament, the Wallabies have a core of youth that will continue to improve for the next four years.
Vice-captain Michael Hooper is among the most critical, at just 24 and already having played 50 Test caps and put a captaincy stint under his belt.
His devastation was obvious on Saturday night and in four years’ time, he will be harbouring that into the next tournament.
That team could still contain players like Tevita Kuridrani, Scott Sio, Sean McMahon all of whom are in their early or mid-20s, while those who were in the wider squad including Joe Tomane and Henry Speight will be better for a World Cup experience.
Hooper and back row partner David Pocock were among the most praised players in this World Cup and it’s a partnership that could continue to grow over the next four years and influence the team on and off the field, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said.
“We’ve for to keep growing. I said to the guys, ‘Don’t be counting down lads, this is just the start’,” he said.
“We’re just starting.
“We want to do really good things for Australian rugby going forward both by the way we played our game and then hopefully he results as well by consequence.
“Pocoock and Hooper...not only are they outstanding players but they’re outstanding people.
“That usually sets the right agenda for longevity in the game and making a real big contribution to your game on and off the field and to your team.”
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau said the leadership qualities of the younger players in the Wallabies team astounded him.
“It’s great for them because they’re the future of Australian rugby and also to see how quickly they’ve adapted to leadership roles in their respective areas, it's immense,” he said.
Wallabies attack coach and 1999 World Cup winner Stephen Larkham said this side could build to a similar make-up of this year’s New Zealand team, with a nucleus of youth growing.
“I think if you look at the New Zealand side there’s a couple of guys there, five or six guys who’ve played 100 Test matches and I guess they were just right for this World Cup,” he said.
“The balance of age and experience and youth and enthusiasm was just right in the New Zealand side.
“Those guys certainly deserve to go out on a high, particularly Dan Carter and Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu if he’s in that boat.
“For us, yeah another four years we’re going to have some guys like that people are going to be very proud of.”
The competition for spots has been well-documented this tournament and Wallabies backup halfback Nick Phipps said that would begin anew in 2016.
Phipps was locked in an intense selection battle with Will Genia and Nic White this season, with both the latter going to France to play in the Top 14.
While he wasn’t thinking too far ahead post-match, said the competition would start anew for him in 2016.
“Give me a couple of days,” he said.
“I’ll always be wanting to get as much game time as possible and wanting to make the impact,” he said.
“Willy got the better of me this year , rightfully so, he was playing some great footy and I wasn’t playing some great footy at important times so you know next year it’s a whole new competition."