Wallabies putting World Cup pain behind them

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper still hasn’t watched last year’s Rugby World Cup final, but as his team prepares for next Saturday’s opening Bledisloe, last October feels worlds away.

That 34-17 loss has been imprinted in the brain of many a Wallabies player and fan but Hooper said he had moved on quickly.

“It was such a great time in my life, my rugby career up until that point,” he said.

“It sucks, I haven't watched the game still, things like that.

Michael Hooper has moved on from the World Cup. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“It's a new year and the opportunities ahead massively outweigh looking back on the past.

“As a rugby player, you've got to look forward because backwards is done.

“What's ahead is way more exciting than what's been for me.”

While it is easy for Hooper to put that piece of history behind him, New Zealand’s Bledisloe dominance is harder to ignore.

Hooper was just 10 years old when the Wallabies last held the Bledisloe aloft, in 2002, and nine the last time Australia managed to win a match in New Zealand, something they will have to do this season with two Tests across the ditch.

The Wallabies last won the Bledisloe in 2002. Photo: Getty ImagesNone of the current Wallabies has held the Bledisloe Cup, with Matt Giteau the first to debut, in the Spring Tour of that 2002 season.

Speaking at a Wallabies fan day at Coogee on Sunday, Hooper said reclaiming the trophy after so long would mean a lot for the players, but as significantly it would be a payoff for supporters as well.

“Looking at the trophy and seeing it up there it's something none of us have held,” he said.

“You want to give back to the fans when they turn up to days like this, they turn up to stadiums and you want to give something back.

“To see Moorey holding that cup at the end would be very nice for not just us but the fans and we'll do everything we can to make that happen.”

The Wallabies won in Sydney last year. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThe first Test looms as pivotal as the only Bledisloe to be played in Australia this year but Hooper said it wouldn’t be a case of one and done for the Wallabies.

“I think we can win anywhere in the world but you've got to travel, there's all those little minor things that make it harder than when you're at home,” he said.

“We're lucky we get the first Test each year and get to roll into it full of steam and crowd behind us.

“It's not all or nothing this weekend, no way, but it goes a long way to setting us up nicely.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was similarly dismissive of the two Test advantage New Zealand holds this year, including a potential decider at Eden Park.

“We don't look at it like that, we just look at each Test like it is in its own right and try to prepare the best we can and if we're genuine with that preparation we've got enough talent to be dangerous but that doesn't mean to say necessarily we'll win,” he said.

“We're a good side and that makes us hard to beat so we've just got to make sure we nail that.”