As 2016 ticks down, rugby.com.au is looking back at some of the biggest moments and storylines of the Australian rugby year.
Wallabies’ next generation
It began after World Cup, and future became a hard topic to ignore once David Pocock confirmed his sabbatical from Australian rugby for 2017. Who will be the players to step into the void?
What the future might just look like showed its most complete glimpse in Paris, with 10 regular starters on the bench or rested entirely for the Wallabies Test against France.
The move opened the door for Kyle Godwin’s first Test start, becoming the 13th Test debutant of 2016 and gave Luke Morahan an opportunity in his preferred fullback position
A midweek match in Bordeaux gave many of those players, plus code-switcher Marika Koroibete and development players Andrew Kellaway and Jack Dempsey, another chance to push their credentials.
In what proved to ultimately be a major transition year for the Wallabies, it was these glimpses of the future that showed how Australia might play as this generation matures, and a scintillating Reece Hodge try against Wales showed their attacking promise.
Hodge was the revelation of the year in the backline, but Samu Kerevi’s emergence in the centres was another exciting development for the attack in 2016, as was Dane Haylett-Petty nailing down a regular spot on the wing.
The forwards also unearthed some gems, though there wasn’t as much regularity in the selections of the tight five.
Lopeti Timani helped answer the conundrum about Australia’s back row combination moving forward, shining at number eight in his starting chances, while Sean McMahon could still fill a starting or bench spot in that department in 2017.
The growth of Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold in the second row also turned around the lineout, an area that was a near liability at its worst points of 2016.
Transition will no longer be able to be bandied around, as players go into 10+ Test tallies and have a whole international season under their belt. Progress must come quickly now.
The next step for this group is to show they can handle the Test furnace on a consistent basis as 2017 rolls around.