Wallabies optimistic ahead of rare Grand Slam chance

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They couldn’t crack a 30-year winless streak at Eden Park but the Wallabies are optimistic they can complete another long-awaited feat and claim a Grand Slam for the first time since 1984.

Australia departs for Europe on Friday for the five-week Spring Tour, which includes the Grand Slam countries Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland, with France in the middle of the block.

Foley said they had confidence that they could contend for the clean sweep, something that hasn’t been attempted a since that 1984 tour.

“I think it’s definitely possible,” he said.

The Wallabies' first Test is against Wales on November 5. Photo: Getty Imges“For us, this year’s been challenging, we can’t sugar coat it or say anything else.

“It’s been a real challenge and something we’ve been fighting through so I think the tour is something that is going to be really exciting.

“[There’s] a lot of guys doing their first spring tour, the fact that it’s a Grand Slam is massive.

“There’s no easy Test matches but the best thing is the resilience of this squad, we’ve worked our way through a lot this year, in terms of defeats and challenges.

“There’s a lot of maybe outside talk but for us it’ll be really good to get together, to be on tour for five weeks and just really [take everything that’s happened with] a grain of salt and I think that’s what we’re looking forward to with this Grand Slam.”

Foley made a return to his preferred flyhalf spot on Saturday night against the All Blacks, with Quade Cooper on the bench, and his comfort showed immediately in the lead playmaking spot.

The success of the Wallabies’ attack at Eden Park, despite struggling to finish, could give coach Michael Cheika some headaches ahead of the European tour.

After five matches playing second fiddle to Cooper at inside centre, Foley said he embraced the chance to get back in the 10 jersey, one that he has previously had a stranglehold on.

“I enjoyed playing 12, it was a good challenge, I probably do feel more comfortable at 10, the reason being I‘ve probably played there for a longer time than I have at 12,” he said.

“In this game compared to the previous ones, we probably held the ball a lot better and we were able to attack for a longer period of time and…persist with that style of attack, where the games before this one, we probably defended a lot, made a lot of tackles, had limited opportunities.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said heither Foley nor Cooper had a mortgage on the flyhalf spot, keen to show variety in the five-Test tour at the end of a gruelling season.

"Every week there's a selection going on so we’re not banking anyone into the positions," he said.

"There's just different options we can make and it's not just the five-eighth, it’s the 12 who plays on the wings, guys who traditionally play on the wing.

"In addition we had wingers who will come in and defend at the centres [or] we might pick traditional flyers on the wing.

"It just depends on the combinations we want to go with.

"As you've seen, we're trying to build our depth and I think that's starting to have an effect.

"There was a number of  players who haven't played a Test at all at Eden Park who were out there last night, probably half the team , so we’re working hard to build on that and we’ll keep doing that on the tour."

The Wallabies name their Spring Tour squad on Monday ahead of Friday’s departure to Europe.