Wallabies playing with national pride in mind

by RUGBY.com.au staff

The Wallabies are aware of their impact on Australians, heading into this weekend’s final.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has never donned a Wallabies jersey but this World Cup journey has taught him about national pride.

Cheika has been vocal about the responsibility that players have to make Australians proud and inject pride into their own performances.

He wasn’t expecting, however, to have his own moments of discovery along the way.

“For me, personally it’s been a very interesting journey since I’ve been involved in this team, of my own nationalism, my own appreciation of Australia,” he said.

“Maybe I didn’t have it in perspective as much not being involved in anything like it.

“It puts it into a certain perspective."

Cheika has embraced all characters through the World Cup and said the diversity of a team both in personalities and backgrounds was one that hoped to represent all of Australia.

“We’re not all guys who are camped out by the billabong with a corked hat,” he said.

“We’re different people that come together to make our lives better. That’s what Australia’s about.

“That whole bit about respect between people and diversity, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about that in this team and then (making sure we’re) putting ourselves, putting your bodies on the line for each other in the games.

“(It’s about) the stuff that maybe we don’t need a lot talent to do and just doing that with unlimited energy."

The opportunity that the team has to reignite the passion for rugby in Australia, as the 1991, 1999 and 2003 World Cup teams did for them as youngsters, is one of which they are acutely aware.

Vice-captain Michael Hooper described the chance as a privilege to play in a match for which any player or coach would “give his left leg” to be a part of.

“I feel extremely lucky that I get the opportunity to run out there and represent all Australians on the weekend and I think that’s how the whole team’s been feeling,” he said.

“We’re just so proud and privileged.”

Prop Scott Sio, who has had an intrinsic link to the World Cup since a 1991 quarter-final between Scotland and Samoa decided his name.

Sio said there was no point playing the sport if you weren't trying to leave a legacy for the next generation of players.

“I think that’s why you play the game. You want to inspire, you don’t just want to look at a rugby player and think that was it," he said.

“You want to see what effect it has on the kids coming through.

“Because at the end of the day they’re the next Wallabies.”

Veteran winger Adam Ashley-Cooper has played more Tests than all bar two other Australians but said it took until the last year for the significance of his position to dawn on him.

“It’s funny, I’ve only really just started to take that on board over the last 12 months, how much the game means to a lot of people back home,” he said.

“How much being Australian or representing the Australian people, how much it means to them.

“We’re a very, very proud country (and we’re) very proud to be representing them.

Cheika reiterated their position as an emblem of Australian rugby at the captain’s run on Friday.

“At the end of the day we’re the representatives of all the guys who are playing, all the guys and girls who are playing rugby in Australia.

“We want to try and embody that (and) those styles when we go out on the field.”