Australia v New Zealand: five things we learned

by staff

1. Kurtley Beale is back

Kurtley Beale came into the game unexpectedly early with Matt Giteau's exit (concussion).  He was critical in attack (91 metres) and was near unflappable under pressure. The 26-year-old has come a long way in the past year, after being on the fringes of the team a year ago. Beale was electrifying in the World Cup final concluding a superb tournament marks the beginning of his return to the top of his game.

2. The future is bright

This was one of the most experienced Wallabies teams in history but their youth will give them hope for the future. While four years seems like a long time now, some of the important foundations have been laid for the Wallabies now. Michael Hooper will still be just 28 in 2019, as will Scott Sio, while a handful of the squad members who have had limited game time will be hitting their peaks. Hooper’s face told a story after full-time and he will be waiting for a chance to go one better in 2019. There’s plenty of development where this came from.

3. Character shown in defence

Australia had 68 tackles in the opening half and just 30 per cent of the possession but conceded just one try in that 40 minutes, in what was effectively the final minute. That effort kept them in the match as the second half kicked off. Desperate tackle attempts and relentless work rate have been hallmarks of this Wallabies side and that showed again in the final. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika praised his side post-match for working to shift momentum throughout the second half and never giving up the chase.

4. Eligibility rules a major boost

No Matt Giteau, no Drew Mitchell. Just as importantly, no Dean Mumm and no Kane Douglas. All four of those players would have been ineligible for Wallabies duty had it not been for a rule alteration earlier this year. A handful more Wallabies will join that group after this World Cup, adding international experience to their arsenal. Being able to call on all those players will be a handy boost for Australia in coming seasons.

5. Australia can be proud of these Wallabies

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has spoken all tournament about wanting to make the Australian public proud and in just 12 months, he has returned much positivity to the gold jersey. A runner-up World Cup finish was a pipe dream this time last year. But as importantly, the way the team carries itself off the field showed, with both captain Stephen Moore and Cheika thanking fans post-match and almost every Wallabies player acknowledging their fans after being presented second-place medals.