The only Wallabies captain to win a Grand Slam, Andrew Slack, says building depth will be critical for Australia’s chances to end a 32-year gap between European whitewashes.
Australia will have its 10th shot at beating all four of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales in Europe in 2016, having won just the once in nine previous attempts, in 1984.
In a random twist of scheduling fate, Wallabies went close to having an opportunity to break the drought in the World Cup.
Just Argentina’s quarter-final win over Ireland prevented that possibility after the Wallabies beat England and Wales in the pool stages and Scotland in the quarter-final.
With a number of senior Wallabies heading overseas now that the World Cup is over and hinting at international retirement, Slack said the next generation would have a critical opportunity to step up.
“(It’s) people who can prove themselves, even ones not within the World Cup squad, it’s guys like Samu Kerevi and others with around a year or two of super rugby with a bit of international stuff chucked in,” he said.
“The key is to have that depth in key positions too.”
Slack said the pivotal position could prove to be half-back - his team had eventual World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones.
Will Genia had the job for the World Cup but indicated the tournament could be his Wallabies swansong and understudy Nick Phipps could be up against tough competition in the bid for the number nine jersey.
Slack said with no unequivocal heir to the nine jersey, that battle loomed as critical in 2016.
“Half-back is an obvious one with Genia potentially not there,” Slack said.
“I’m not sure who exactly but maybe (Rebels half-back Nic) Stirzaker or someone in that ilk.
“Maybe in 12 months players like him will become great or those who are already, like Phipps ,will turn into greater players.
“The truth is you’ve got to have world class players.
“Phipps was on the bench but he’d had a chance to establish himself which he didn’t quite take, so there is no obvious one.”
After that is taken care of, Slack said things simply have to come together.
“Things do have to fall into place,” he said.
“Everything’s got to connect a bit like a chemical equation to work out in the end.”
Slack holds two elusive records, having led the Wallabies to their most recent win at Auckland’s Eden Park as well, and said the longer a win evaded their successors the larger the hype becomes.
“That’s just human nature when the longer you yearn for something the more it gets talked about.”
Australia kicks off its 2016 international season against England in a three-Test series in June before August’s Rugby Championship leads into the Grand Slam.